Donte Burton is being honest when he says that, even as he boarded a plane at the Atlanta airport bound for Wisconsin on Friday afternoon, he wasn’t sure whether he could see himself suiting up for the Badgers football program.
Burton, a cornerback from Loganville, Ga., had not been on campus before and was considering a number of schools, including Notre Dame, Missouri, Minnesota, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. In fact, he was in the process of planning future official visits after his stop at Wisconsin concluded.
And then, Burton stepped foot on campus and watched Wisconsin defeat Northwestern 33-24. Like so many out-of-state Badgers recruits before him, he saw how special the atmosphere was in Camp Randall Stadium and understood why so many coaches and players love being there.
By Saturday night, Burton had made up his mind. He, too, wanted to be a member of the Wisconsin Badgers. Burton told defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard of his decision over dinner, and Leonhard promptly called coach Paul Chryst to share the good news.
“I really didn’t know what to expect going up to Wisconsin, but as soon as I got there, it was a nice college city,” Burton told Land of 10. “And really it surprised me. And then I got to meet with the coaches, got to meet with all of them. Everybody was just cool. They seemed like they loved being there.
“I talked with the players. The players, they were jumping around. Everybody just seemed like they loved being there. It was the type of atmosphere that I wanted to be around. Just a place where everyone wants to be.”
— Clamp Captain ™ (@burton_donte) October 1, 2017
Burton, a 6-foot, 174-pound senior, becomes the 19th commitment in Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class. And his addition very well could wrap up the class. Wisconsin had been looking to add another player after safety Trent Ingalls (Menasha, Wis.) de-committed in August.
Initially, Burton committed to North Carolina on July 31, 2016, but he de-committed this past April. Wisconsin offered Burton a scholarship on May 10, and he kept tabs on the program over the coming months. He became particularly enamored with the manner in which Leonhard used his defense.
Burton liked the emphasis Leonhard placed on playing man-to-man coverage. That’s exactly the scheme Burton said he thrived on because he loves challenging receivers. Leonhard’s background as a three-time All-American safety and 10-year NFL player also played a role in Burton’s thought process.
“I see myself succeeding in that secondary,” Burton said. “The scheme is perfect for what I do. I see myself doing nothing but great things in that secondary. Coach Leonhard, he’s going to be coaching us up. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been through it all, so he knows what it takes. I just hope to learn a lot from him and just take everything I learned and put it out there on the field and perform at a high level in Big Ten country.”
Donte Burton’s junior season highlights
Loganville football coach Mike Humphreys described Burton as a player who was coachable and had a great work ethic on the practice field. Burton started for Humphreys as a freshman. He is rated as a 3-star player and the No. 66 cornerback in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Humphreys acknowledged Burton needed to add strength, as many high school players do when they transition to the college game. But, Humphreys said, Burton’s athleticism and closing speed give him all the tools necessary to be a stellar defensive back. Humphreys noted few opposing quarterbacks have been willing to test Burton this season.
Burton said he had planned on visiting Madison during the summer but couldn’t make it up there. He assumed the Badgers’ staff thought he wasn’t interested and therefore he did not hear much from coaches. But two weeks ago, Badgers running backs coach John Settle met with Burton at his high school and delivered his pitch. Humphreys said Settle admitted he hadn’t seen much of Burton on tape but that Leonhard was pushing for Burton to join the program.
According to Burton, Settle informed him that he was the No. 1 cornerback on their recruiting board and could make an immediate impact with the program. Settle urged him simply to take a visit and see what he thought for himself.
“The rest was history,” Burton said. “I went up there and I loved every minute of it and made my decision.
“Once I got to Wisconsin, it just was a different feeling about it. It felt like this right here, this is where I need to be because I can see myself playing out here with these guys in front of these people. It was really the perfect place, perfect timing.”
Humphreys spoke with Burton once the official visit was finalized about what he might experience at Wisconsin.
“When Donte set the visit up, I said, ‘It’s a crazy place,'” Humphreys said. “You see it on TV. The fans are fanatics up there. I said, ‘You know it’s going to be cold up there.’ He kind of chuckled and said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ Evidently, he was really impressed. It’s Big Ten football.”
In addition to his on-field talent, Burton has worked to become more of a leader on his high school team. Humphreys said that after Loganville earned its first victory of the season two weeks ago, Burton addressed the group and said he wanted to take on more of a vocal role.
All those traits have provided a confident player who is ready to take the next step in his football career at Wisconsin.
“He’s definitely one of the best corners that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Humphreys, in his 14th season with the Loganville program and his third season as coach. “Even the summer before his ninth grade year, you could tell he was going to be a special kid.”
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