When North Carolina State Coach Tom O’Brien told Justin Burke last week that he wasn’t in the mix to be the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback this year, the redshirt sophomore felt as if he had been blind-sided by a blitzing linebacker.
“It was a shock, obviously, to the system,” Burke said. “It’s never good to hear something like that.”
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But just as he did when he was sacked during his career as Lexington Catholic’s record-setting quarterback, Burke got back on his feet quickly.
With the help of his parents, Greg and Jennifer, and former Lexington Catholic Coach Bob Sphire, Burke figured out his best options, and decided to transfer to Louisville.
“Anyone who plays wants to be given a shot, and that’s what I based my decision on,” said Burke, who will have two years of eligibility after sitting out this season. He is allowed to practice with the team.
Hunter Cantwell, a senior, will be Louisville’s quarterback this year, but the job will be up for grabs next spring.
Burke thought he would be in competition to start for N.C. State after he saw limited action last season, and had a great spring practice.
But O’Brien, who took over the N.C. State program after Chuck Amato was fired following the 2006 season, had other plans.
“When there’s a regime change, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t,” Burke said. “There are no ill feelings. I loved N.C. State and really enjoyed my time there.”
It didn’t take Burke long to zero in on Louisville.
When he was at Lexington Catholic, the Cardinals were the first to offer him a scholarship. It came after his sophomore season.
Jeff Brohm was the Cardinals’ quarterback coach at that time and recruited Burke. Brohm is now the offensive coordinator under Steve Kragthorpe.
Burke also has family in Louisville. His dad played football at St. Xavier, and Justin’s grandparents, and several aunts and uncles, still live in Louisville.
“I’ve been coming here my entire life for family stuff, so I know my way around the city,” Justin said. “Louisville is a great opportunity and a great situation. My parents are ecstatic that I’m here, and that’s an understatement.”
Burke never seriously considered a transfer to Kentucky, not the way it is stocking its roster with quarterbacks.
Not that Burke is assuming he’ll step in and be Louisville’s triggerman, either.
“Anywhere you go there’ll be competition,” he said. “Obviously, Hunter is the man here this year. After that it opens up, but there’ll be competition, no doubt about it.”
The quarterback situation isn’t the only thing that sold Burke on Louisville. Academics were also important.
Burke is on target to graduate next spring, and Louisville has a couple of post-graduate programs that interest him.
In his senior year at Lexington Catholic, during which he led the Knights to the 2005 state title, Burke had a tough time figuring out where to go to college.
His heart was set on Boston College, but he didn’t get a scholarship offer from then- Eagles Coach Tom O’Brien — yep, the same guy who took over at N.C. State in 2007.
So Burke narrowed his choices to N.C. State and Louisville, ultimately choosing the Wolfpack.
“An offer from Boston College didn’t come, that staff wound up at N.C. State, and now here I am at Louisville,” he said.
“It’s funny how things work out.”