SKOKIE — A year ago this week, Glenbrook North’s David Burnside made a memorable varsity debut for the Spartans in a 42-14 win over Deerfield in the CSL North opener.
Burnside was promoted from the sophomore team that week and played receiver, running back and some safety. He caught four passes, scored two touchdowns and delivered a few key blocks, generally drawing rave reviews for his performance.
Twelve months later, those rave reviews continue for the 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior. He now is firmly established as one of the key players on both sides of the ball for Glenbrook North, which takes a 1-3 record into Friday’s conference opener at home against Maine East.
In 31-23 loss to Niles West on Sept. 20, Burnside, now the starting safety, made two interceptions. On offense, he caught five passes for 32 yards at wide receiver.
“He doesn’t come off the field,” Glenbrook North coach Bob Pieper said after last week’s game. “He’s a very good player. He made a lot of plays tonight.”
Senior lineman Matt Alexander said: “There is nothing more we can ask from him. Everyone believes in him, everyone has faith in him. He’s just a great overall player, person and teammate.”
Burnside looked pretty comfortable with varsity football from the beginning, but appears to have taken his game up a notch this season.
“Last year, it was a huge transition from sophomore to varsity, the speed and the length of the game, guys were bigger and stronger. That was tough,” he said. “But having an extra season, you mature mentally and that makes it easier for me to understand what’s going on and help the team in more ways than I could last year.
“I had the entire offseason to watch film and meet with coaches and talk about things that I could improve, which could help me control the game a little better.”
The Spartans have had some struggles early in the season as they attempt to overcome some key losses from last year, namely the graduation of running back/safety Grant Rushing, now a walk-on linebacker at Illinois.
Though Glenbrook North is unlikely to find anyone capable of replicating Rushing’s contribution on the ground, Burnside has ensured the position of free safety is once again a strength for the Spartans.
A two-sport athlete, Burnside played center field for the Glenbrook North sophomore baseball team in the spring.
“There definitely are some similarities between free safety and center field,” he said. “In both, you have to keep your head on a swivel and you have a lot of open field to make a play. In center field, when you are going for a fly ball, there is a lot of field to cover. In our defense, (the free safety has) to cover a lot of ground. They definitely tie into each other.”