CHESHIRE - Malachi Burby didn’t want to wait.
He had worked his whole life for this moment, so why, he thought, put it off any longer than necessary. After all, playing big-time football is what he always wanted and big-time football is what he will get.
On Wednesday, the Berlin native and junior defensive lineman for Cheshire Academy verbally committed to Wake Forest University, a member of the ACC and Power-5 school.
“I met with [Cheshire Academy] coach [David] Dykeman probably 15-20 minutes beforehand,” Burby said. “We were talking what other schools were in the picture, what schools weren’t. There was a couple, but after I left the office, I thought ‘I loved everything about the school; coaches were amazing; the facilities were amazing, so why not just pull it?’ It felt like home when I was there. They made me feel like I belonged there and wanted me to be a part of their family.”
Comfort was an important factor for Burby both from a football and non-football perspective. He wanted to fit into a defensive scheme he liked - an attacking, go-get-the-ball style. He also wanted to like the atmosphere of the school as well as the academic part from the classroom size to the academic staff put in place for the team. He plans on majoring in business at a school that ranks 27th nationally, according to US News & World Report.
Playing time was another important factor that moved the Demon Deacons to the top of the list, and getting the chance to get on the field as early as possible to play against schools like Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and Miami is something that only has Burby more excited. He wants to play against the best and Wake Forest certainly offers him the chance to do so.
“I talked to their D-line coach a couple of days after [I visited],” Burby said, “and he said ‘we have about three or four guys graduating and we’re bring in one or two and you’ll have time to come in early and play,’ and to me, that’s what I want to do. I want to play early and get that experience. Even if I don’t start or get some time, I can still learn from the guys in front of me. But that was real big to me because at a lot of schools, you don’t play until your junior or senior year and I wanted to get that exposure.”
There will be some transition for the junior, more so with what he will have to do on the field. Currently listed at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Burby will be converting from defensive end to a three-technique defensive tackle. But both he and Dykeman expect the change to go off without much issue with the head coach noting Burby’s work ethic and desire to continuously find a way to get better.
“I think what Mal does is he plays with an incredible motor,” Dykeman said. “You can’t coach that. To play hard every rep, to play to and through the whistle, Mal does that every rep. I think Mal has great athletic ability. He has great lateral movement and get-off. I think what Wake is excited about is your projecting him, which is what you do in football. Two years ago, this guy was playing outside linebacker [for Berlin High] and now, we’re talking about him play three-technique in the ACC.”
First, Burby is looking for a productive and healthy senior season. And although his commitment to Wake Forest is only a verbal one at the moment, Burby will be the first to tell you don’t expect any sort of change between now and Signing Day.
“I’m buying into what Wake Forest is doing right now,” Burby said. “I stressed a lot [about this decision]. Coach Dykeman can tell you. I went to him a lot to ask questions about school. It was always on my mind. But you only need one [school] and that’s what coach Dykeman told me and once I got the one, I knew it right away. But I didn’t think it was even possible to get an offer from a Division I school. From what I was told, I was a high Division II, maybe a low Division I player. It feels great. I’m excited.”
Burby has certainly come a long way since he came to Cheshire Academy and is always quick to thank his family, particularly his parents, teammates and coaches. As for what his potential is going forward, Dykeman perhaps said it best and that might be the most exciting part for a college program on the rise.
“Limitless,” said Dykeman of what he thought of Burby’s potential. “That’s what you want in a football player. You always want to be able to project and we have some really, really good players here and the great ones you say, ‘God, they could be this, this and this.’ And I think that’s the great thing about Mal. Could he go play defensive end? Sure. Then you see him growing into a defensive tackle, in that full-time weight program and nutrition program to see what he’ll be able to do, and with the great coaching staff they have down there, the sky is the limit for this guy.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org