The On Campus Report provides Stark County football fans a chance to catch up with the stars they watched a few years back on Friday nights. WHBC’s Noah Hiles sits down and speaks with some of the former greats from local teams to find out how their playing experience is going at the next level. Week by week check in to see how some of the area’s best athletes are doing on the college gridiron.
SOUTH EUCLID – For as long as he could remember, the only thing former St. Thomas Aquinas standout Jimmy Butchett has wanted to be was a football player. While other kids roamed the streets in Alliance on Halloween dressed as superheroes or their favorite horror movie character, Burchett kept things consistent, proudly wearing a football player costume each year.
Since he began playing the game at five years old, the gridiron has always been one of the primary sources of what makes Burchett who he is. However, after a dominant performance throughout the 2018 season, the Notre Dame College guard has a new identity: All-American.
Burchett led a Falcons offensive line that blocked for the sixth best rushing attack and seventh best overall offense in NCAA Division II (D2). In 14 games, he and his four teammates up front allowed just 12 sacks. As a result, Burchett received All-American honors from three different media outlets. He was the only sophomore offensive linemen in 2018 to do so.
“We all had a great season,” Burchett said. “It came as a huge surprise to just be named first team all conference, let alone become an All-American.”
Whether if he can believe it now or not, that is the reality for the 6-4, 310 pound junior. As Burchett enters his third season for Notre Dame College, he is no longer just “a football player,” he is a cornerstone piece to one of the top teams in the country.
Burchett is now a team captain and once again, an All American. One new challenge that he will have to prepare for is that he is now on opponents radars. As the top linemen on one of the nation’s most high powered offenses, Burchett enters 2019 with a target on his back. For some, that would be concerning; for Burchett, it’s exciting.
“Honestly, I love the competition,” said Burchett. “I have a few friends on teams that we are playing this year, on the defensive line. I’ve heard a couple comments from them, talking about how their coaches have been saying they have to look out for me. Personally, I just take that as a new challenge. I like how other teams are now targeting me on our offensive line and our offensive game plan. I just look forward to getting everybody’s best, every week.”
Burchett will not be the only one on his team with a target on his back. Notre Dame College returns sophomore tailback Jaleel McLaughlin, who rushed for 2,421 yards last season as a true freshman, setting a D2 record. Entering 2019, McLaughlin, along with the help of Burchett and the rest of the Falcons offensive line have their eyes on an even more impressive feat: the NCAA single season rushing record.
The record was set by former NFL running back, Danny Woodhead who rushed for 2,756 yards at Chadron State College in 2006. Burchett says he believes his teammate is capable of breaking it.
An even bigger focus for Burchett and his teammates this year will be not an individual milestone or award, but the ultimate team goal, which is winning a championship. They came close to doing just that in 2018, losing to eventual National Champion Valdosta State 30-24 in the D2 semi-finals.
With 18 starters returning, Notre Dame College is certainly in a good position to win the first National title in program history. They enter the season ranked 11th in the D2 football.com and 4th in the AFCA. For most players, that type of hype also creates a high amount of pressure. But not for Burchett, he is just focused on playing football; which is all he’s ever wanted to do.