Chief defensive lineman Sam Burt left the picture for Kansas in Week 1 last season after suffering an arm injury early against South Dakota. Burt only appeared once that year – in Week 9 against Kansas State.
Burt, who was on the super-senior roster last year, was expected to be one of the few faces to ease the transition in the first year under head coach Lance Leipold. But the injury forced Burt out for the Jayhawks’ final three games.
Shortly after, it emerged that Burt still had one more redshirt season available – providing a rare opportunity to return to Kansas next season. Watching Leipold lead the final three weeks of the 2021 schedule with great contentment, Burt knew his decision to return was the right decision.
“I was very frustrated, I think it’s quite natural,” Burt said. “Through my faith, I just knew there was a bigger plan in store, and I would learn something from it.”
Burt credited Leipold with bringing a level of continuity to the program that allowed players to seek out the opportunity to succeed, even without playing time.
“For (Leipold), it’s less about getting four five-star recruits,” Burt said. “It’s about bringing in the right people who are going to build our culture, move our culture forward.”
During his recovery, Burt turned to community service to continue to motivate himself alongside the Kansas program. He has volunteered on several projects, including the Just Food Community Food Bank, Massachusetts Street Cleanups, and working with area elementary schools.
Last week, Burt was added to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, an award recognizing the dedicated servant of the college football community. The football program nearly doubled its hours of service this summer, according to Burt.
“Any way you try to change an agenda, servitude and humility is the best way to do it,” Burt said. “That’s what we’re trying to build here. Making guys serve others is the best kind of love you can show someone, so giving it to our community and showing that we love them will in turn lead to a better relationship for us.
The offseason ended as Kansas kicked off the first day of fall camp Tuesday morning, with Burt back in full force.
“I think I think we have time to be a little more consistent, especially this offseason. We did more things with the coaches, with the players. It just allows us to get to know each other a little better.
A focal point of Leipold’s coaching staff is the changes occurring under coach Matt Gildersleeve. After Tuesday’s practice, Leipold said progress in the weight room needed to be translated to the field.
Asked about this message, Burt agreed with his trainer.
“Even though we’re striving for these strength and weight gains, it’s all about the football,” Burt said. “That’s why we’re doing this. I think it was a good introduction to campus. That’s great, but we’re going to shoot this chapter now.
For Burt, the transition to the regular season has been exciting so far.
“I feel really good,” Burt said. “I’ve been here a while, and I can honestly tell you this is the most exciting fall camp I’ve ever had. From camaraderie, to hope, to energy, to anything. It is by far the best camp, the best team in terms of cohesion.