Davis Knight stood on the sidelines watching Brigham Young University's football team and head coach Bronco Mendenhall, one of his former players at American Fork High.
The subject of conversation turned to basketball and bloodlines of Cougar shooting guard Sam Burgess. Knight also coached Sam's father, Andy Burgess, and Sam's uncle, father of former Duke and Utah center Chris Burgess.
In Sam, Knight sees a lot of Sam's father.
"He had the ability to play tight end and quarterback," said Knight of Andy Burgess. "We had a quarterback come in, and we moved Andy to tight end, and he played linebacker on what was probably the best linebacker crew we've ever had. He was a three-sport star."
Sam, the son, might as well be varnish on the hardwoods the way he dives, skids, sprints and slides all over the floor of the Marriott Center. The senior is a high-energy athlete who is enjoying his role as a starting guard on a squad favored to win the Mountain West.
Remembers Knight: "Andy was an athlete. Just tough. He wasn't just a tough kid who got along in '76 because he was big, he was also very strong and he was a great basketball player. I see a lot of his father in his sons."
Andy Burgess played linebacker at American Fork alongside former Cougar Brian Hansen. Like Hansen, he too played that position at BYU, albeit briefly. Andy married Wealtha, an all-state champion swimmer and nationally ranked discus thrower.
You get the idea.
Once American Fork's enrollment split and Lone Peak High began, Andy's sons attended the new high school. As the Burgess boys moved through the ranks, starting and starring at all sports, Knight was so impressed he sat down and wrote a letter to Andy and Wealtha, extolling the merits of what their sons had accomplished.
In Sam, you can see layers of DNA stamped with a strand that says "play." At Lone Peak High, he played basketball alongside his older brother, Amos, who went on to play baseball at Dixie College and Southern Utah University and was drafted.
The Burgess brothers were multisport athletes, and Sam soaked it all in. He earned rare first-team all-state honors in basketball, baseball and football, a sport in which he excelled as a quarterback. At Snow College, Sam led Region 18 in 3-point shooting and it wasn't even close.
"It was a lot of fun, playing with my brother," said Sam of the days at Lone Peak when he was the point guard as a freshman and sophomore and his older brother was a broad-shouldered power forward. He credits his dad "my father taught me all I know" for his shooting touch.
Said Knight: "They were tough kids, just like their dad."
And BYU basketball coach Dave Rose chimes in with the praise.
"Sam is the kind of player we want all of our players to be like at BYU. Sam is committed to the program. He is committed to winning. He is committed to academics and is a great student in our business department.
"With his character, his ability and his leadership to perform in pressure situations, I just love him and I'm glad he's here."
Because of Burgess' length in Rose's program (four years), he is ahead of most players on the roster in terms of defense and offense. He may be BYU's best on-ball defender up front, likely battling Lee Cummard as the best defensive player on the team.
Burgess gets his hand on a lot of passes, and when he's on, he can light it up. Rose hopes the 6-foot-3 shooter can fill the offensive role left by the departed 6-6 Jimmy Balderson and Michael Rose.
For Utah's 2001 prep athlete of the year, this is the final season for Sam Burgess to make his mark, fulfill his dreams and leave some kind of collegiate legacy with the Burgess name.
It's been a long, productive ride in sports for Sam. A baseball pitcher, outfielder and first-baseman. A quarterback and 1,771-yard passer his senior year of high school. Multiyear all-state in multiple sports. Sam Burgess probably has as many of those citations as it is possible to earn as a high school athlete.
Basketball became his ticket at the next level.
Sam has had sporadic contact with his cousin, Chris, who has played professional ball in Australia after an intense recruiting battle that took him to Duke and then Utah after the Cougars thought he was in the BYU picture back in November 1996.It's taken 11 years for BYU to get back in the Burgess business. In Sam, they've got one with bloodlines that could make a real difference this season.
E-mail: [email protected]