Woodrow Wilson’s Christian Burks surely remembers the first time he was picked up at school by his dad Todd, riding on his motorcycle.
It was pure exhilaration.
How could he forget?
“I remember I was at Stanaford; I think I was in second grade,” Burks said of the moment. “It was fun. I thought I was the stuff getting on the bike in front of my friends and stuff. It was just a fun experience.”
These days Burks is the one pulling up at practice at Woodrow Wilson on his Harley Davidson lowrider.
If bikers are known for their toughness and grit, Burks fits the bill.
A wrestler at Woodrow Wilson, Burks already has two successful knee surgeries under his belt, the toughness of battling back from a leg injury alone illustrating that grit and toughness he possesses.
He is the strongest player on the team, coach Street Sarrett said. His maxes in the weight room set the standard for his fellow linemen. And he not only plays football, but he has a job, doing lawn care around the city and over the winter worked at a local restaurant.
And that workload taught him a thing or two about pinching pennies. He used to drive a Chevy Silverado to practice, but the price of gas took care of that. That’s when the youngster learned a lesson and took a page from his dad’s love of motorcycles.
Why trade his truck?
“Uh, gas prices,” Burks said. “They are terrible. My parents make me pay for that. I have a job. I’ve had a job since high school. With football and work and school, I wasn’t able to work enough to keep gas in the truck. It’s school (first), then football and work. So, I wasn’t able enough to work enough to pay for (gas).”
He is not content to see the world with the wind in his hair.
This easy rider is a leader among his teammates.
“He’s a character,” Sarrett said. “Probably one of our strongest and toughest kids. He drove a Chevy 2500 the last couple years and the next thing you know, he’s sold it bought him a Harley and drives it around. He visits state parks when he isnt busy working and cutting grass. But I will tell you what, if you have a kid that loves the weight room like Christian Burks you have yourself a team. He loves the weight room and loves being strong.”
Burks figures his success as a lineman was built in the weight room, but he admits he didn’t really buy in until his sophomore season.
“It is very important to me, if you don’t go in the weight room, you’re not going to do very good out here,” Burks, a rising senior, said. “Especially on the line. You are pushing 315-pound guys around. If you’re not going in the weigh room and spending your time in it, the field is not going to be very kind to you.
“Overall, I didn’t start going hard until 10th grade. In ninth grade it wasn’t as important to me. In 10th grade I started getting more serious with it. (Being the strongest guy on the team) doesn’t really mean anything to me. That’s more of a personal goal. I don’t care if I was the weakest guy on the team as long as I tried and put effort into the weight room that is all that matters to me.”
Burks said the team has been amped in the offseason by last year’s playoff berth, the first at Woodrow Wilson since 2014.
“We’re definitely hungrier now,” Burks said. “We’re practicing harder, we are happy to be here. When we were coming off the 1-9 season, or the 2-8 season, we’re really depressed going into the next season. Since we went 5-5 loss, counting the game against Bluefield that we didn’t have to play (forfeit in favor of Woodrow due to Covid), we’re all really excited.”
As a returning starter, lessons learned during the playoff campaign will pay off, Burks said. And that is important to the guys who have been in the program and seen the down times.
“It’s really special for us, it means a lot to us,” Burks said. “Getting our team and the city of Beckley there means a ton to us.”
Burks is looking for a “great season”
“I am probably biased saying this, but I think the line is the most important part of the team,” Burks said. “We’ve been together for very long time. The majority of us have been together since our Southwest (Bandits) days, since we were five years old. So the chemistry is there. And I think we’re going to be very good on the field.”
The only thing he has done longer is motorcycles.
“I think that the first time I ever sat on a bike I was one (year old), still in a diaper,” Burks said. “I just love them. I was brought up around them. Just feeling the wind after practice is fun. I don’t remember the first time being taken for a ride. I was too young, but it was probably a ride around the neighborhood.”
Burks said one of his favorite loops takes him through Hawks Nest in Fayette County.
And the gas allows it.
He is now advocating for bikes with his teammates.
“Our quarterback (Jay Jones) has talked about getting a bike,” Burks said. “People see it and they say, ‘That’s cool, I’d like to do that.’ (Jones) really wants one.”
Burks said he likes to think he has the biker mentality.
“I think (bikers) are usually tough” Burks said. “Most people think of bikers as being really rude and mean. But not all of them. I definitely feel there is a toughness there.”
Burks has proven to possesses that trait.