It was just about a year ago, Wyatt Burrows, then a high school junior at Bel Air, was finishing up a varsity football season as a 300-plus pound nose guard.
“I didn’t like it” Burrows said recently of that sport and season.
Now, Burrows and his Bel Air boys soccer teammates will begin their quest towards a Class 3A state title run and Burrows, 225-pound defender, couldn’t be happier.
“It’s incredible, basically what I’ve dreamed of being, but never really put myself out there to achieve it until now," Burrows said.
Soccer has always been an interest of Burrows, but at his weight, it wasn’t something he could get too, serious about. “I’ve always liked soccer, but I was never confident enough to put myself out there to play, because I always too big, too slow," Burrow said. “My dad said I always looked like a football player, so I played football instead just to make him happy. I really didn’t like it.”
So, in June of this year, Burrows took steps to become a different person. He was 305 pounds as he started conditioning to make an effort to become a member of the Bel Air boys varsity soccer team. “So in three months, I lost like 75-80 pounds,” he sad. When tryouts started in August, Burrows was at 235 pounds.
“From the conditioning sessions, I got close to a lot of people and I had a lot of people backing me to make the team, because of how hard I worked,” he said. “I didn’t want to go just off of that, I wanted to show them that I really belonged there. I could have given up so easily. Least amount of pressure, I would run away and hide from it.”
But not this time. Burrows’ history of quitting, running away and fearing failure were gone.
“I first heard of Wyatt trying out over the summer and I have a former player that plays in college [Josh Beeker] that does all of our summer conditioning,” Bobcats coach Dominic Rose said. “It was him and a few of my seniors that kept helping him [Burrows] all summer get fit, lose weight and improve his skills. When I met him before tryouts, he was so polite, energetic and excited about even having an opportunity to try out.”
So, Burrows, determined as any and likely more than most, gave his best efforts to become a member of the team. “On cut day, we scrimmage and I call every player over and talk to them 1-on-1; if they make it, I tell them how I see them fitting in, if I cut them, I tell them why and give them all the information they need to try again next season,” Rose ssid. "I called Wyatt over first, I started to talk, then realized, he needs to know first, he made it, before he has a nervous breakdown. So I told him right away, before anything ‘Wyatt, you made the team.’ He was first in shock and disbelief, then as I started to speak, he just started crying tears of joy, to see all his effort for four months pay off.
Rose says he explained his role, that there wouldn’t be much playing time until he earned more in practices. “I told him he inspired me to be a better coach, so I could help him achieve his goals. He made me cry for him, it was moving,” Rose said. “At the end of practice, the team just rallied and cheered him on. It has really put this whole season in perspective for all of us. Honestly though, it was his teammates that helped him the most.”
Burrows’ self troubles began when he was a young child. “My parents separated when I was 5 and they divorced in 2010, so I was always bouncing between houses and I was always told some bad stuff about my dad, because I was with my mom a lot more,” Burrows said. “So, I never really had a relationship with my dad. I guess I was just lost for a long period of time, up until I started to lose all this weight.”
One question is how did he become so heavy? "I guess it all stems from the fact that I was scared of people. I know that sounds strange, but I avoided interactions with people because I was scared of failure, Burrow said. “I would sit in my room, play X-box and eat. I didn’t have a lot of friends, I sort of just existed.”
The only real soccer Burrows says he ever played was as a stand-in player for a few games when he was 11.
So, back to the X-box. It was a friend’s year-old FIFA game that was given to Burrows, who took the game personally. “I tried to replicate what I saw on TV and that started me wanting to get in shape and wanting to play for real,” Burrow said.
Burrows, who now lives with his father after learning that some of the stuff said about his dad was not true, drives from Parkton to Bel Air daily for school, practice and games. He has four jobs to pay for gas to make the drive.
“It’s that drive and basically what’s keeping me going is my love for the sport. If I didn’t like what I was doing, I wouldn’t do it, but I’d kill for this team, it’s everything that I wanted. Dreamed of playing ever since I was a kid,” Burrows said.
“Since tryouts, he has improved tremendously,” coach Rose said. “He continues to get better and on a roster of 23 players, he is in the top 20 now.”
And Burrows continues to work and dream. “I love everything about it. I love the sport, I love the atmosphere and I imagine myself being in that situation and walking out onto the field for the first time as a pro,” he said. “This is still my dream, I hope that I am able to keep on working and achieve that.”
He would like to play in college, but currently doesn’t know if that will happen at either of the two DIvision II Florida schools he likes. Soccer or not, Burrows is planning to study astro physics and aeronautical engineering.
Burrows has some advice for kids who struggle with who they are. “Don’t be afraid to be someone else other than the direction that you’re being pointed into,” he said. “If you’re put in a negative environment, it doesn’t mean you have to turn out and be negative, because you can be positive. You can make an impact on people, even if your suppressed, you can still make a difference.”
Rose knows he has a special player and team. “I believe he’s an inspiration for everyone, that positive attitude and positive thoughts and hard work, can and will pay off,” Rose said. “I could talk forever about him, even if we lost in the first round, this team is full of winners, to put this young man ahead of their dreams to win states. So far, we won counties, who knows what’s next.?