This is the latest in an occasional series on how some of the area’s top high school athletes are working to develop their skills over the summer.
McLean lineman Burke Bartow has the 40-yard dash on his mind
Speed is not necessarily his biggest asset. Yet as the standout nose tackle and guard looks to lock down his first college scholarship offer, his primary focus is an area normally reserved for skill-position burners: the 40-yard dash.
In an ultra-competitive recruiting process, Bartow has learned just how difficult it is to stand out. Though he easily tops his teammates at McLean on the bench press and squat rack, during college visits Bartow has learned there are plenty of players in the country who can rep right along with him.
“When you go up there you’re like, ‘Oh I’m the biggest kid in my school I don’t think it’ll be that hard,’ ” Bartow said. “And when you get up there you’re like, ‘Oh wow, these kids are all my size or bigger.’ So it’s kind of intimidating and makes you want to work harder.”
In his hope to set himself apart from the group, Bartow decided to work on an area he figures not many others are practicing: speed.
Playing on the interior of the line requires strength and dexterity, but Bartow hopes his efforts on sprint work will improve his explosiveness. And, most importantly, give him a number that stands out from the crowd.
Bartow, thus, has worked with a trainer on the 40-yard dash. Coming out of a stance similar to the one he uses when playing defensive line, Bartow is training to maximize his quickness in the first few steps.
“When you tell a coach they say, ‘Oh you run a 5.6, okay,’ and they just mark you down on a list with a number saying you run a 5.6,” Bartow said. “If you work on that and as a lineman run a 5.2 or a 5.1, you stand out more from the average lineman. If you have aspects that people don’t think about, but you worked at it more, it’s one of those things like character that you want someone to have but not everybody has it.”
The focus on speed, however, may also have an impact on the football field. Bartow hopes he surprises opponents who might not expect a player his size to barrel down on them too quickly. And the 40-yard dash should also improve his effectiveness in his first few steps — an area critical on the lines.
“If your first step is not going to be good, is not going to be in the correct spot, you’ve wasted that play,” Bartow said. “If you’re going to miss the first step, it’s kind of like you just took the play off.”