It took six years for Brandt Burzak to find his perfect position on the football field.
The 17-year-old from Red Deer was good no matter where he played, but once he stepped in at running back it was obvious he was a natural.
He first carried the ball six times in Grade 10 for the Hunting Hills Lightning, but it wasn’t until he joined the Camrose Shock midget team in 2013 that he started at running back full time.
The following Central Alberta High School season, Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick started Burzak in the backfield and he finished second in league rushing with 825 yards on 76 carries for a 10.9 average and three touchdowns. He also grabbed 12 passes for 168 yards and a 14.0 average.
Despite his short time in the backfield, Burzak impressed the Team Alberta coaching staff and he was named to the team to compete in the Canada Cup in Montreal in July. Burzak first attended the Central camp in Lacombe, then the main camp in Calgary. Originally there were over 400 players on the Team Alberta list, with that number cut down 120 for the main camp.
The team, which finished fourth at the Canada Cup, went with three running backs.
Burzak didn’t expect to make the team.
“Not really, but I just went to camp to do my best.”
Once he made the team, he got plenty of opportunity to play.
“It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Mostly I learned nothing is easy. You have to push yourself to always try to get better. It was challenging and you needed to be committed.
“It was certainly nice to be able to pick up a few things from the other guys.”
And what the five-foot-six, 170-pound Burzak learned during the summer has carried over to this year’s high school season. In just two games, he has 403 yards rushing on 51 carries. Last game, a 37-14 win over Lindsay Thurber, he carried the ball 29 times for 213 yards.
“That was quite a few carries,” he said. “They could have spread it out to the other guys a bit more. I didn’t mind except I started to cramp up toward the end.”
Burzak got into football in Grade 5, playing peewee. He played four years of peewee and was with the Red Deer team that won the provincial title under head coach Greg Thompson. He then played two years of bantam football before joining the Ligthning.
During his minor football days, he played some receiver, quarterback and a lot of defensive back. He was mainly on the defensive side in Grade 10.
But he has a natural ability at running back.
“You have to have the vision to see the holes and not be scared of anything. I think the time I was on defence helped — I understood the blocking and what the defence sees.”
Burzak isn’t eligible to play in the Canada Cup this summer, but hopes to make the Senior Bowl for graduating players.
“That’s my personal goal,” he said. “As for the (Lightning), we want to make the provincials.”
Burzak hasn’t received any offers to continue his football career after high school, although competing in the provincials, and possibly in the Senior Bowl, will help that, giving him added exposure.
“I do want to continue on but I haven’t looked at anything yet,” he said, indicating he would look at either university or junior.