December 17, 2013

Burke gets a Heisman vote

More news about: Mount Union
Kevin Burke won't be striking the Heisman pose any time soon, but did receive a vote, which is rare for a Division III player.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com

By Jason Bailey
for D3sports.com

Mount Union is synonymous with Division III football.

Emphasis on the III.

But that classification didn’t stop Purple Raiders junior quarterback Kevin Burke from receiving a second-place vote for the Heisman Trophy, which was awarded Saturday.

Heisman voter Doug Clarke, who attended the same high school as Burke, said he included Burke on the ballot in part because of concerns about the popular candidates. Although all NCAA players are eligible for the Heisman, only Division I athletes have won the award.

“Why not a Division III kid? No scholarships. He gets good grades. He’s sort of the ideal of what a college athlete is all about,” Clarke said. “I thought, ‘Why not, I am going to step in new territory here.’ He’s certainly got the credentials. I know it’s Division III, but he has electric stats. It seemed to be a good year to do it. There wasn’t any outstanding guy in my mind.”

Clarke gave Florida State sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston, the eventual winner, his first-place vote. He picked Oregon sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota in third place.

The only Division III player to receive notable attention in Heisman voting was Plymouth State running back Joe Dudek, who finished ninth in 1985 after being featured in a Sports Illustrated article (What the Heck, Why Not Dudek?) that encouraged voters to think outside the box.

Clarke certainly did.

“Let’s be honest, I voted for Winston to win the thing,” Clarke said. “So what’s the harm for popping Kevin Burke in there? I thought that would be kind of neat. It would be so neat, so unusual that no one else would do it. It’s not like he’s going to be in New York.”

But his excellent season among his peers is sending Burke to Salem, Va., this week as one of four finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, awarded to the best all-around Division III player. Burke has thrown for 3,351 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions while adding 904 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, and he is second in Division III in passing efficiency.

Most recently, he led Mount Union (14-0) to the Stagg Bowl with a pair of big games: a 62-59 quarterfinal victory over Wesley and a 41-40 semifinal win vs. North Central. Burke is seeking his second consecutive national championship, and he was named to the All-America Third Team after last season’s title run.

Clarke is now retired after a newspaper career mostly in Ohio, most recently writing a column for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. He has owned a Heisman vote for about 30 years and has not been afraid to make unorthodox selections. Last season, he gave Wisconsin running back Montee Ball his first-place vote; Ball didn’t finish among the top 10 vote-getters.

But this is the first time Clarke has voted for a non-Division I player.

“This is just totally subjective on my point,” Clarke said. “But [Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny] Manziel is sort of a punk to me; the Jameis Winston thing sort of got cloudy, although I did vote for him to win it. There was no standout, and also there’s that feeling that somewhere along the line, the Heisman got lost. [It turned into] who is going to be the best pro? Will we be sorry that we gave the Heisman to this guy?”

Biases among Heisman voters are often evident when reviewing the ballots. The 870 votes are divided equally among six geographical regions, and it’s common for regions to skew their votes in favor of local candidates. And Clarke is certainly more familiar with Burke than most.

Decades after Clarke graduated from St. Edward High School, Burke led the Cleveland-area school to a state championship in his senior season but didn’t receive any scholarship offers, according to Clarke, who said other players on the team received interest from Northwestern and Michigan. That 2010 campaign was the last time Clarke has seen Burke play in person, although he has watched three or four Mount Union games a year via television replay.

All that considered, Clarke said he isn’t worried about any media reaction about his selection.

“That didn’t cross my mind at all,” Clarke said. “Hell, what would I care?”

Any attention that Mount Union will receive from Burke’s unexpected Heisman recognition should only strengthen the school’s reputation as a Division III powerhouse. The Purple Raiders have won 11 national titles, have multiple players currently in the NFL, and have had its athletes win the Gagliardi Trophy a record five times. Their trophy case is certainly full.

Thankfully, a Heisman vote shouldn’t take up much space.

Sep. 24: All times Eastern
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Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
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at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
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at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
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at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
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at Western New England 59, Curry 28
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at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Colby 9, at Williams 7
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at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
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Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
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at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
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at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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at Springfield 28, WPI 23
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at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
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at Denison 45, Wooster 7
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
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at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
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at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
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at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
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at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
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at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
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Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
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Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
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Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
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at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
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Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
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Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
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at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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at Ripon 33, Knox 19
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Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Central 42, at Loras 34
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at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
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UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
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Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
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Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
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Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
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at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
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Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
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at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
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Sep. 29: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
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Emory and Henry at Washington and Lee
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Central 42, at Loras 34
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St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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