Monday, November 8, 2010

Perseverance Pays off for Burke

In 2009, before the University of Louisville football team had been fully infected by Kragfluenza, I followed the Cardinals to Lexington for a game against archrival Kentucky. For awhile, it looked like a storybook day for Louisville and its quarterback, Justin Burke.

Burke, who grew up in Lexington not far from the stadium, completed 15 or 28 passes for 245 yards. He had a lot of friends and family members in the stands. I know. I think I exchanged high-fives with all of them after nearly every completion.

Unfortunately, the celebration eventually ended. Louisville led until late when Trent Guy fumbled a punt, resulting in a Kentucky touchdown and a 31-27 Wildcats’ win. Nevertheless, it seemed Burke, an N.C. State transfer, had firmly established himself as Louisville’s quarterback. Like the win, that wasn’t to be either.

Burke played just two more games before being injured and replaced in the lineup by Adam Froman. That could have been the end of his story … and his career. It seemed like it would be until Saturday afternoon. That’s when Burke replaced an injured Froman in the lineup against Syracuse, leading visiting Louisville to its most important win of the season. I suspected Burke might rise to the occasion, based solely on the obviously flawed sample of a single game in Lexington in 2009.

It’s unclear who will play quarterback for Louisville this weekend as the Cardinals host another Big East foe, South Florida, with bowl eligibility at stake. If Froman is healthy, I suspect he’ll once again replace Burke … just like he did in 2009.

But no matter what happens, Burke will always have Syracuse. I’m happy for him. His success shows that perseverance pays off. My only regret is I couldn’t be there at Syracuse exchanging high-fives with his family members.

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