FORTVILLE — For a number of years, the Burhenn family has regularly made trips from Fortville to West Lafayette to watch the Purdue Boilermakers.
In the near future, those trips will be made with the anticipation of watching one of their own.
Earlier this week, Mt. Vernon rising senior tight end George Burhenn verbally committed to play football at Purdue University, choosing the Boilermakers over Iowa and Iowa State. He also had offers from Michigan State, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Duke, Army, Air Force, Nevada, Miami of Ohio, Ball State, Ohio and Indiana State.
“I went on an official visit this past month (to Purdue),” Burhenn said. “From the start, I had a good feeling about the whole place, the people, the players, everyone I was around. It made me feel like I would be OK for this to be my home for the next four or five years. It was always in the back of my mind that it was the place I wanted to go.”
Burhenn said he has been going to athletic events at Purdue since he was a little kid.
A friend of the family was part of the Boilermakers women’s basketball team’s coaching staff. The Burhenns went to women’s and men’s basketball games, football games, and some wrestling meets.
He’s going to go from being one of the fans to one of the players.
“They are going to get a great high school player, not only from Mt. Vernon, but from the state of Indiana,” Mt. Vernon head coach Vince Lidy said. “They’re getting a tight end that is continuing to develop. A key will be to get his weight up a little bit to handle the size of the Big 10. He definitely has the speed and the mobility of a high-level performer.”
Burhenn said the Boilermakers were the last school to give him a scholarship offer.
When they started showing interest, “They re-sparked my attention,” he said.
“It was super exciting,” Burhenn said of Purdue’s initial contact. “It was an early morning before I was walking into school. It was around 6:30 in the morning and I got a notification on Twitter. I think it was one of the graduate assistant coaches. It got me so excited. It made my day.”
Schools recruited the 6-5, 215-pounder as both a tight end and safety. He’s played both positions well. Purdue’s plans are to have Burhenn on the offensive side of the ball.
With still one more high school football season remaining, Burhenn has already been a major contributor — and in multiple ways — for the Marauders program, including this past season that culminated with winning the 2021 Class 4A state championship.
The Marauders went 14-1 — winning their final 14 games — and defeated Northridge, 45-14 at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27 in the title game.
Burhenn scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Gehrig Slunaker to help give Mt. Vernon a 14-0 first-quarter lead. He had two catches for 22 yards and an interception with a 13-yard return.
For the season, Burhenn had 28 catches for 443 yards and five touchdowns.
In what many considered a major upset in the regional round of the state tournament, Burhenn showed he was more than just a pass receiver. He had five rushes for 115 yards, including a carry for 72 yards to set up a touchdown, in Mt. Vernon’s 27-21 victory over defending state champion and then-No. 1 Roncalli.
Again, Burhenn showed his versatility the following week in the semi-state game at Evansville Memorial. He had seven tackles, which tied for second most on the team, in a 42-28 win that secured a spot in the state championship game. He also had a pair of receptions and ran the ball twice.
He has been a year-round standout during his Mt. Vernon athletic career. Along with excelling in football, Burhenn was a key member of Mt. Vernon’s sectional champion basketball team. This past spring, he was outstanding on the track. He was the leadoff runner on the Marauders school-record setting (3:20.67) 4×400-meter relay team that placed third in the state. Individually, he placed fifth and set a school record (39.27 seconds) in the 300 hurdles.
As a sophomore football player, Burhenn, primarily, played defense and led the team with five interceptions.
“It’s crazy. I never would have imagined (getting all the recruiting attention),” Burhenn said. “Every little kids’ dream is to play big-time football. You don’t really think that it’s ever going to happen. Now that it’s happening, it feels surreal.”
Burhenn and the Marauders begin the 2022 high school football season August 19 at Noblesville.