When 2021 Rochester grad Eddie Burkhardt untied his cleats after his final high school football game on March 19, he wasn’t sure what his next step in life would be.
The last four years had gone in the blink of an eye for the four-year varsity player and three-year starter — even more so with the shortened six-game COVID season this year.
“It felt like time went flying by,” Burkhardt said.
Just three months from graduation, Burkhardt had little time to find a landing spot if he wanted to continue his football career at the next level. Then he received his first contact: Pacific Lutheran University.
Their coaching staff liked what they had seen from the tight end/linebacker who had earned all-league honorable mention honors from the 2A Evergreen Conference at tight end.
But it wasn’t his pass-catching or blocking abilities that caught their attention, it was his tackling skills.
They asked if he could come out for an official campus visit, and he did, on April 23. Less than two weeks later, on May 5, the Lutes officially offered him a scholarship.
“It felt great. I’ve been working for a while,” Burkhardt said. “To get my first offer when PLU reached out, it kind of felt like everything was falling into place.”
Burkhardt already had one scholarship offer on the table, from Pacific University in Forest Grove, and received another from Presentation College in South Dakota on May 16.
But it was PLU that garnered his attention the most. When he had visited the campus in the shadows of Mount Rainier, it just felt like the right fit.
Burkhardt spurned the other two colleges and officially committed on May 28, publicly announcing his decision on social media on June 9.
“PLU just kind of made it feel like home,” Burkhardt said. “They made me feel like part of the family, the campus was nice and the program is nice.”
It was a dream come true for Burkhardt, who worked his way up the ladder in the Warriors’ program, going from an untested starter as a sophomore on the offensive and defensive lines and working his way up to starting tight end and linebacker.
He remembers his first varsity game sophomore year playing on the line and thinking the 270-plus-pound upperclassmen across from him were huge.
But he kept working, getting bigger, stronger and faster, while taking solace in the fact that football was his escape from the real world. Everything else going on in his life would fade away and he could just focus on himself and have fun.
“The goal was to always make it to the next level and do everything I could to make it to the next level,” Burkhardt said. “I knew if I worked and did everything I could, it could happen one day. But I never saw myself playing college until recently this season.”
Now, the hard work has paid off and Burkhardt is on the verge of becoming a college football player, with team practices starting either late July or early August.
PLU is coming off an 0-4 shortened season in 2020 due to the pandemic, and Burkhardt is hoping he can help be a part of a program revival in Tacoma.
“I’m just looking forward to all the memories I’m going to make,” Burkhardt said. “It’s exciting. It’s kind of, in a sense, starting high school all over again.”