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La Salle star LB Burke earns his way back onto football field

After spending time last season as a walk-on at Boston College, Sean Burke gets a scholarship to play fullback with the Eagles.

Sean Burke (with the ball) starred at linebacker at La Salle, then earned a scholarship with Boston College after walking on last season.
Sean Burke (with the ball) starred at linebacker at La Salle, then earned a scholarship with Boston College after walking on last season.Read more

THE CUBICLES in Sean Burke's office were quiet as the day was ending. You could faintly hear the middle-class Americans punching out after a long day's work, one by one. And as Burke was finishing what was going to be another boring day, in a dreary summer, he heard something.

Bzzzzt. Bzzzt. His phone vibrated at his desk at 4:30 p.m. It was the Boston College football team. Burke careened from his workspace and minutes later, he was seen gleefully leaving the building. The Eagles had offered the walk-on junior linebacker-turned-fullback a scholarship.

Burke hit the road to Chestnut Hill, Mass., signed his paperwork and picked his summer classes. The moment had been coming since Burke decided to play football at the next level, after his days starring on defense at La Salle High, where he was named to the Daily News' All-City team in 2011 at linebacker. He had always wanted to play, but it was midseason, last year, when he finally got his opportunity.

"I wanted to play football when I got to Boston College, but things fell through with the different coaching changes," Burke said. "I came as a regular student, but got a call from one of the coaches that they saw my film and asked if I wanted to walk on. We started the process, and I walked on around Week 4 or 5, and it was midseason at that point."

Getting to this point wasn't easy for Burke. He went through nearly every part of the Eagles' football program before grabbing his hard-earned scholarship. He was moved from linebacker to fullback after seeing time on special teams during the season against North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

But it was his play on defense that caught the eye of the coaches from the start.

Burke was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers' All-State Class AAAA first team as a senior linebacker at La Salle in 2011. He helped lead the Explorers to a 12-2 record as team captain during his senior campaign and earned Catholic League honors as a junior and senior, while helping his team to three straight league and District 12 city championships from 2009-11.

So when Burke was moved to the other side of the ball, receiving the hits instead of dishing them out, it didn't bother him much. He had never played fullback, but he looks at his new position with optimism, since it has landed him another opportunity on the gridiron.

"It's still cracking guys," Burke said with a slight laugh. "But now, you know where you're going before the play starts, instead of the opposite way around. It's still contact and you hit everyone on the field."

The 5-11, 229-pounder from Lansdale loved football but he didn't want to give up the chance at going to Boston College. His parents, Phyllis and Bill Burke, are both BC graduates, and he didn't want to miss out on a chance to purse a great education.

The 20-year-old finance major in the Carroll School of Management said football is "an open competition," and his ambition, now that he's under scholarship, is working hard to get more time on the field.

Currently, Burke isn't the starter at fullback, but that hasn't diminished his unbreakable spirit, now that he's back on the field. His coach at La Salle, Drew Gordon, thinks that Burke getting another shot on the field isn't about his skill, rather, an example of his character.

"It's a great story about a young guy that loves football so much that he didn't want to eliminate his dream about going to Boston College, even though he wasn't recruited by them," Gordon said."

"In 2 years, he's earned a scholarship in position on the team. It shows a lot of his character and how much he loves football to move himself onto that roster."