Tom Burkett has been called "Grizzly Adams:' "Rolling Rock" and everything in between, as he has roamed football fields from Parkland High School, UNC-Chapel Hill to the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.
Burkett started his athletic career at Parkland by participating in football, basketball and baseball. His height, weight and speed - 6'5", 2251bs, and 4.9 seconds in the 60 yard dash -made him ideal for Coach Homer Thompson's power attack.
Burkett was all-City/County Lineman of the Year in 1973; All-District, 1972-1973; All-State, 1973; played in the 1973 Shrine Bowl and the East-West All-Star Game; he was presented the Thorn McCann Award and the Coca-Cola Golden Helmet Award, symbolic of the student who has top achievement on the field and in the classroom.
Coach Bill Dooley of the Tarheels - a proponent of knock down and drag out football -liked Burkett's potential and signed him up immediately after the 1973 season. Burkett grew 40 more pounds by the time he arrived in Chapel Hill. He was tested at Tight End, but his 272 pounds were best suited for offensive tackle.
Burkett struggled and learned. He found that the lightest opponent he played against was 255 pounds. His high school foes did more running and ducking from "Grizzly," thereby making his blocking skills rusty.
Notably, by his senior year, Burkett had helped carry the Heels to the Sun Bowl and had received wide acclaim for destroying Steve Neihavs, Notre Dame's All-America Tackle, in a 21-14 loss for the Tarheels. Neihavs was held to one tackle.
Due to a senior year injury, Burkett was not picked until the tenth round by the Cleveland Browns. Coach Rod Humenik liked his blocking skills and strength, plus his 6'5", 285 Ibs. size was certainly no problem.
After Burkett said adios to a brief career with the Browns; he headed back to North Carolina where he continues
to enjoy hunting, fishing and playing golf.