By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – It’s time to pick the 2014 Bristol Observer Male Athlete of the Year and once again, it was a daughting task.
Well, it really wasn’t folks as only two real candidates were on the radar this year, according to the committee of one (me).
You can throw all sorts of names out there but, truly, the cream of the crop came down to two athletes.
The two warriors I came up with was Bristol Eastern’s Kenny Smith – headed for Central Connecticut State University to play football – and Bristol Central three sport standout Tyler Burrow.
Two football captains, two extreme athletes, two obvious picks.
It would be easy to say, heck, they’ve both won the award this year but in the end, I think one just – and I mean just – overshadowed the other.
And I went with a 5-foot-6 bulldog by the name of Tyler Burrow.
Burrow wins the 2014 Bristol Observer Male Athlete of the Year Award and for the gridiron warrior and tough grappler, he’s more than worthy of the honor.
First, any running back that’s 5-foot-6, 130 pounds who can rush for over 1,000 yards gets your attention right off the bat.
Folks, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again about Burrow.
It’s a certifiable bulldog who will run through a brick wall to get that extra yard or to make that tough takedown to snare a victory.
The numbers, folks, speak themselves over the fall gridiron season of 2013.
For the year, Burrow rang up 1,298 yards off 202 drives (6.4 yards-per-game) and ran in 14 touchdowns in a very busy season of action.
He also main gains in the air and caught a pass or two for the Rams.
Burrow also led the squad in receiving yards with 233 off 13 receptions (17.9 yards-per-catch) that included a touchdown.
Add in last season’s numbers of 986 carries and 17 touchdowns off 200 carries (4.9 yards-per-game) and 14 catches for 114 yards (8.1), it’s been an impressive two seasons for Burrow.
In his scholastic career for the Rams, Burrow has been sensational as he collected 2,605 yards off 464 carries (5.6 yards-per-carry) to go along with 35 touchdowns.
He also caught 28 passes for 369 yards and a touchdown in his brilliant career.
Burrow is one of those athletes that is such a quick regainer of balance and that’s where he gets that cutting power from.
Better get him on the first tackle because if you give an inch, he takes a mile.
He’s like one of those fancy kitchen knives you always see advertised on TV.
Burrow will chop, slice, dice, and mince the competition…
And he never needs sharpening.
Except you won’t pay $19.95 (plus processing) for Burrow.
He is sixth in school history in rushing yards in a single game as he blasted Maloney on Nov. 8, 2013 for 342 yards on 24 carries in a victory against the Spartans.
Only two other running backs had more yards in a game as Timmy Washington (he accomplished that four times) and Karl Hall (345 yards in 1979) did the trick.
In that Maloney victory, Burrow also tallied six touchdowns in the 46-22 win.
Though the Rams didn’t beat Eastern on Thanksgiving, Burrow made some big ground during the fray and bounced back from a very tough 2012 outing the year before.
Burrow earned the Bristol Central Offensive Player of the Game award for his exploits as he raced for 125 yards, off 21 carries, as the Rams just missed out on capturing a victory.
His 1,298 yards was the 14th highest single season mark in school history.
Burrow earned all conference honors in the sport during 2012 and 2013.
And there’s this outstanding wrestling resume by Burrow that stacks up with the best of what the Central program has ever seen.
He wasn’t just the team’s captain this year but he ended up being a four-year starter over his scholastic career for the Rams.
And this guy – and this is one of the reasons why Burrow earned the Bristol Observer Male AOTY Award – never wrestled before high school!
To say the least, success has followed him from freshman to senior year.
Burrow is only the second wrestler ever in Central program history to place at the state tournament four times and in terms of victories, he grappled, smashed, and pounded his way into 126 wins.
Again, that’s 126 wins over a scholastic career.
He came into the season with 92 career wins and simply added to his totals meet after meet over the winter months.
Wins came at many prestigious tournaments including the Bristol Central Invitational, the Plainville Invitational, the Ridgefield Challenge, and the CCC South Tournament.
This season, Central went 13-7 in duel matches and Burrow had his imprint all over that success.
He easily went over 100 wins this past season and even when a win didn’t materialize for the senior, Burrow made you bleed, sweat and pay the price in the match before things were said and done.
And at Burrow’s own Bristol Central Wrestling Invitational, Burrow took a decision over Kevin Side from Ridgefield at 132 pounds by a 4-3 final.
Then at the Centaur Invitational in Woodstock, Burrow won the 132 weight-class as he pulled out a 1-0 decision over James Turgeon from RHAM.
Central nabbed second place at Woodstock and Burrow was a big part of that success as well.
At the 2014 Class L championship, Central finished in 13th place and Burrow – placing sixth at 132 – earned another shot at the State Open.
Burrow won two matches at the State Open before ending his wrestling career for Central.
The Rams finished 33rd out of 93 schools participating at the Open event.
Burrow also earned some Bristol Central team awards this year off his outstanding mat work.
He earned the moniker of “Mr. Takedown” and also won the Brian Archibald Animal Award.
The Archibald award is earned by the grappler who best exemplifies what it means to be an “animal” on the mat.
That describes Burrow to a tee.
Winning the Class L championship in 2013 was obviously his biggest accomplishments but those four sixth place finishes in the L tournament can’t be ignored either.
In 2011, 2012, and 2014, Burrow made sixth place finishes in very crowded fields and that’s all the more impressive.
And don’t forget what he did during the spring sports season on the outdoor track team in 2014.
In the Class LL championships, Burrow – along with along with Drew Lee, Luis Medina, and Keon Walton— took seventh in the 4×100 relay in a final time of 44.94 seconds.
Overall, Burrow was a four time member of the CCC South All Conference wrestling team while earning those honors in football over the past two campaigns.
The only real downer, if you can call it that, is Burrow never got to taste a victory over Bristol Eastern on Thanksgiving or on the mat at the annual BE/BC wrestling showdown.
This is a guy that battled and battled for everything he earned at Bristol Central high school.
Easily, he scooped up the 2014 Bristol Observer Male Athlete of the Year Award.
Frankly, his record speaks for itself.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE