College football fandom is a strange phenomenon. The vast majority of fans know going into any given season that their favorite team has no chance of competing for a title. Heck, it’s rare for most teams to have any real chance at making a conference championship, much less a college football playoff appearance.
So the little things become big things. Recruiting victories become as significant as on-field victories. And round and round the cycle goes.
And then a moment like this happens. They’re incredibly rare, which makes them that much more meaningful.
You know the moment. The moment when being a college football fan gives you pure unadulterated joy.
The further I get away from childhood, the fewer of those moments I feel. I’m guessing my job has something to do with that; once you see how the sausage is made, it’s hard to unsee it. But I would imagine many of you reading this can relate. The tough losses don’t hurt the way they once did and the big wins don’t result in the same joy they once did.
Days like today are different. Luther Burden, the top-rated wide receiver in the 2022 class, has committed to play at Mizzou.
He bucked the trend. He told Alabama and Georgia and basically every other team in the country, “thanks, but no thanks.”
He did so to stay home. He did so because he wanted to be a Tiger.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good story. There’s probably some truth to that. But who wouldn’t love this story? The local kid bucks the trend of going to national brands to stay home and help rebuild his local program? If that’s not what college football is all about, then what is?
5-star Luther Burden on his decision:— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) October 19, 2021
"I just want to start a trend here in St. Louis," adds he hopes more local prospects head to Missouri and that he believes in Eli Drinkwitz. https://t.co/lBtCgZ4OHb
Going to Alabama or Georgia or Oklahoma or Ohio State would have been easy to explain. I mean, have you watched those schools? Their down years are 10-win seasons. Nobody would have blamed Burden for following other St. Louis stars such as Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Craddieth, Michael Thompson, Mario Goodrich, Ronnie Perkins, Kamryn Babb, Jameson Williams, Antonio Doyle or so many others who choose to play for a national program as opposed to the home school. We get it. We don’t like it. But we get it.
Burden wanted to be different. He wanted to do things on his terms.
2022 WR Luther Burden has Committed to Missouri pic.twitter.com/v3VEA5Lojc— Megan Strickland (@StricklyMeg) October 19, 2021
The man they call “Touchdown Luther” is going to be a Tiger. The biggest Missouri football recruiting victory in nearly a decade is complete. The momentum is back on Eli Drinkwitz’s side.
The hope has been restored.
Where he fits: Wherever he wants? In all seriousness, he fits as the starting wide receiver from day one. He can play any of the receiver spots, but my guess is they’ll use him at the “Z” position. But that could change depending on how things shake out elsewhere. Burden is a good enough player to fit wherever you need him.
Watching Luther Burden's highlights is hilarious. It's just a series of him outrunning everyone else on the football field. pic.twitter.com/QXWnPJnz7f— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 19, 2021
And that’s what makes him such a special player. Someone asked me to compare Burden to Dorial Green-Beckham. It’s a difficult comparison to make. They’re not similar in really any way other than both play wide receiver. DGB was a 6-foot-6, 220 pound freak of an athlete who outran everyone on the field and high-pointed the ball with the best of them. He was an athlete playing wide receiver. Burden is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and he wins at... well, everything. He’s strong, he’s fast, he runs crisp routes, he makes defenders miss in space. He can literally do a little bit of everything.
If you’re looking for a better comparison for Burden, it’s probably Jeremy Maclin. Much like Luther, Maclin won in every way possible in high school. He wasn’t rated as highly as Burden, but a quick view of his high school highlights will show that might have been an oversight by the recruiting services.
"Ope, just gonna sneak by ya..." - Luther Burden pic.twitter.com/kCGtCG8p8a— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 19, 2021
Maclin was expected to come in and contribute right away before suffering a torn ACL in summer camp. Maclin showed everything that he was capable of in 2007 when he finished with 1,430 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
Obviously those are outlandish expectations for year one. But that’s the production a player like Burden could put up before his time at Mizzou is up.
When he’ll play: Day one. That should be the expectation. Former East St. Louis wide receiver Dominic Lovett earned playing time right away upon his arrival on campus. This is not meant as a shot at Lovett, but Burden is a significantly more polished player at this point in his career than Lovett was at this point a year ago.
Lovett has already worked his way up the depth chart. It would be quite the surprise if Burden doesn’t follow suit.
What it all means: Everything. This was the one Drinkwitz simply had to have. I know the Tigers already have the seventh ranked 2022 quarterback committed. I know they have four other players ranked in the top 20 at their respective positions in the 2022 class.
This is just different.
Burden is at a different level than every other player in the class. He’s a top 10 recruit nationally. He’s a guy who could have called any coach in the country and said, “Coach, I want to play for your team,” and that team would have found the room.
Missouri’s season hasn’t gone the way any of us would have hoped. That will take center stage again soon enough. But, for at least this week, Mizzou’s football program once again feels like it’s headed in the right direction.
Eliah Drinkwitz had been upping the standard for recruiting at Mizzou for quite some time, but landing Luther Burden is about as legitimizing of a commitment a coach who is building a program could have.— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) October 19, 2021
Luther Burden is staying home. It’s a great day to be a Tiger.