DELPHOS — On many teams, senior Evan Burgei would be closing in on 4,000 career rushing yards.
However, with Delphos St. John’s, this is Burgei’s first year as a full-time tailback.
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound senior spent the last two seasons starting at cornerback for the Blue Jays. The only time he carried the ball was when tailback Jordan Leininger needed a breather.
That’s all changed this year.
Blue Jays quarterback Wes Ulm, who helped the team to the 2008 Division VI state title, graduated after last year. Leininger moved from tailback to quarterback.
And Burgei went from the starting cornerback to the starting tailback.
“I was in love with the idea,” Burgei said. “I’ve always wanted to get the ball in my hands and do something with it. It kind of stinks that I can’t play much defense, but I’ll take the trade any day.”
The move has played a big part in the Blue Jays 11-0 season. Delphos St. John’s will meet Ada (10-1) in the Division VI regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Findlay’s Donnell Stadium.
Burgei, who has the combination of speed and power, has run for 1,100 yards on 156 carries (7.1 average). He has 17 touchdowns. He also had six receptions for 40 yards and one TD. He was named first team all-Midwest Athletic Conference.
“In the summer, we knew if Jordan Leininger was going to be the quarterback, we knew we were going to have a quality tailback (in Burgei),” St. John’s coach Todd Schulte said. “Evan is a tough runner, he’s very shifty, but yet he runs very hard. He runs with those high knees up all the time and he’ll get you the tough yards, too. And he has very good speed.”
In the 73-21 domination of Edgerton in the first round of the playoffs, Burgei had 14 carries for 140 yards and TD runs of 1 and 23 yards.
As a sophomore cornerback, Burgei helped the Blue Jays win the state title. He also filled in at tailback and ran for 484 yards on 67 carries with eight TDs.
“It was the greatest feeling ever to hold the trophy and knowing that you’re part of something that’s great, the Blue Jay tradition,” Burgei said. “It was just awesome.”
As a junior cornerback last year, Burgei carried the ball only 12 times for 85 yards with two touchdowns.
“As long as we kept winning, it didn’t matter if I was playing tailback or not,” Burgei said. “I’ll do anything to win.”
Last season the Blue Jays lost in the state title game 24-21 to Norwalk St. Paul in the final five seconds.
“Right when we hit the locker room after that game we said this was the worst feeling ever and that we will not let this happen,” Burgei said. “We started pushing ourselves then and have kept going and building on it.”
Burgei grew up in a football house. His father, Jerry, was a standout running back and defensive back for Ottawa-Glandorf (class of 1979). Jerry, now a St. John’s assistant coach, went on to play defensive back at Michigan in the early 1980s.
In O-G’s Hermiller Gymnasium lobby, a huge picture of Jerry Burgei is shown leaping over the pile to make a tackle in the 1983 Rose Bowl game against UCLA.
“I think it was an awesome thing and I think anyone would dream to be in that situation,” Evan said of his dad. … “It was awesome to see that and you know that’s your dad. He’s a role model in everything he does. He teaches me all kinds of life lessons.”
As for next year, Burgei plans to go into engineering at an Ohio school.
“If I play football there, that’s fine. If not, I’m going to make the best out it,” Burgei said.
Just like he has in whatever his role has been at St. John’s.
Unflappable Blue Jay