Long road took QB Burroughs to Wesley

DOVER — Khaaliq Burroughs’ college football career is anything but a straight line.

The Palmyra, N.J. native had so many plans when he finished high school.

He was going to run track — and maybe try walking on to the football team — at North Carolina State.

But Burroughs ended up playing football at a Minnesota junior college in 2011, spent some time at the University of Delaware in ‘13 and attended some junior colleges along the way.

So, yeah, the fact that Burroughs is now a 24-year-old junior and the starting quarterback for the Wesley College football team is a pretty amazing story.

“It’s been a long road,” he admitted with a smile. “From 2013 to 2016, there were a lot of times when I thought my football career was over.

“I didn’t want it to be over. That’s why I had to get back in touch with somebody.”

The Wolverines are pretty happy that among the many coaches that Burroughs reached out to was Wesley assistant Jeff Braxton.

Burroughs, who only saw minimal action last season, suddenly became the Wolverines’ starter when Nick Falkenberg suffered a season-ending spleen injury in the season opener at Delaware Valley.

With the 14th-ranked ranked Wolverines (4-0 NJAC, 4-1 overall) hosting Kean (2-2 NJAC, 2-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m. for homecoming, Burroughs is the highest-rated passer in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.

He’s tossed nine touchdown passes against four interceptions while throwing for 154.8 yards per game in his four starts. He’s also been named the NJAC Offensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row.

Burroughs doesn’t remember being overly anxious when he called Braxton, just looking for a chance.

“I wasn’t really nervous because the worst thing I could get was a ‘No,’” said the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder. “I tried a lot of people at a whole lot of schools.”

Wesley had recruited Burroughs coming out of high school but then lost track of him.

“He found us,” said coach Mike Drass. “He kind of showed up. He was one of those guys in high school … we would have loved to have had him but they weren’t looking at Division III schools.

Drass, of course, has taken in his share of older players over the years.

“We’ve seen it work wonderfully and we’ve seen it work horribly,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an exact science to it. I think it has a lot to do with the kid. … Finding a home is not an easy thing to do.

“I think the spring was great for him. We got a chance to really watch him and he got a chance to soak up the coaching from Coach (Chip) Knapp. He’s an example of, ‘You’re one play away (from being a starter).’ A lot of guys who are not No. 1 don’t realize what that means.”

In some ways, this whole situation has turned out to be a dream come true for Burroughs. While he was sorry to see Falkenberg get hurt, he’s just glad he was ready when opportunity came his way.

“Man, I’m having the time of my life right now,” said Burroughs. “I thought I wasn’t going to be playing football any more. Now I feel like my hard work is starting to pay off. I’m having fun right now.

“Like I always say, I know the game of football can be taken away from you at any point in time. I try to never take anything for granted — any play, any rep, any drill, anything.”

Sure, Burroughs has been called ‘Grandpa’ a few times by his teammates. There’s actually two other Wolverines who are 24, too.

But they can call Burroughs anything they want, just as long as he’s playing football again.

“I’m excited because I feel like we’re improving every week,” said Burroughs. “The team’s coming together more and more — especially after that emotional win (27-24 at Frostburg State last Saturday). We feel good about what’s coming up next.”

Block party

The best sound that the Wolverines heard all day at Frostburg on Saturday was the double ‘thud’ that ended the contest.

The first thud was Stephen Yorkman getting a piece of the Bobcats’ 40-yard field-goal attempt in overtime.

The second thud was fellow lineman Will Scott (Dover High) finishing off the blocked kick that sealed Wesley’s 27-24, OT victory.

“After we got off the field on defense, I was running off the field and I was like, ‘Come on, let’s keep it going,’” said senior defensive end Vincent Ebron. “‘You have to block it. If you block it, the game’s over.’ It was a great feeling.

“You never know what can happen. You never what part of our team scheme will be that moment where something happens.”

Making a difference

Cornerback Shareef Jefferies thought he might get forgotten when he injured his knee as a freshman.

“I know it’s a business out here,” he said. “You get hurt and you’ve got to work your way all the way back up.”

But Jefferies made sure Wesley’s coaches noticed him when he had three interceptions in the spring game. Now that he’s in the playing rotation, Drass likes what he’s seen from the youngster.

Jefferies had a big second-half interception against Frostburg State.

“He almost plays like a linebacker playing cornerback,” said Drass.

“I like to hit,” said Jeffries. “You’ve got to know when to be physical and when to do your job.”

Extra points

Safety Cappadonna Miller was named to the D3football.com Team of the Week after registering a team-high 12 tackles, including eight solo stops, and intercepted a first-quarter pass against Frostburg. … The Wolverines rose five spots to No. 14 in this week’s D3football.com poll while Frostburg dropped from No. 11 to 18.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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