Sports

West Sound Saints’ Burlingame taking a different route to pro dream

Saints special teams standout and defender Josh Burlingame punts the ball against Southern Oregon to open the season.  - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Saints special teams standout and defender Josh Burlingame punts the ball against Southern Oregon to open the season.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

West Sound shut out 36-0 against B.C.

To teammates, he’s “the rookie” — but “the outlier” might work just as well.

There are a plethora of minivans parked outside. Children and wives in the stands. And then there’s 19-year-old Josh Burlingame, who graduated from South Kitsap High School last month.

The 5-foot-9-inch Burlingame is the youngest player on the West Sound Saints roster. Unlike many of the 30-somethings who have suited up for the semipro team since its inaugural season in 2000, Burlingame doesn’t view it as his final opportunity to play.

“I want to see where this takes me and how far it goes,” he said.

Burlingame said veteran Gabe Llamas told people that the Saints needed another linebacker. Mutual friends suggested he contact Burlin-game.

“He gave me a call at work, and I came out that day for practice,” Burlingame said.

If the July 12 39-13 win against the North King County Wildcats was an indication, Burlingame already seems to be one of the Saints’ best defensive players. He had a couple of sacks and an interception.

“He definitely played a really good game,” West Sound coach John Corey said. “He’s a talented football player who’s added a lot to the defense.”

Despite the gaudy statistics, Burlingame said the competition in the North American Football League is substantially more difficult than what he played against at South. If he assessed the talent level in semipro football on a scale of 10 being the maximum, high school football would rate as a 5.

“It’s a challenge, and I like a challenge,” he said. “It’s nothing like high school — it’s bigger. The guys are stronger and faster. It’s harder all around.”

Burlingame, who’s working for his family’s construction company this summer, said he doesn’t feel his July 12 performance was his best. After learning the system at South, he said he’s had to adjust to a new playbook. He’s a starting linebacker and punter, but now that he’s learning the Saints’ system, Burlingame expects to play more often at fullback. With the Wolves, he was one of the primary blockers for running back Stephen Tucker, who will walk on this fall at Eastern Washington University.

College isn’t the plan for Burlingame, who hopes to play arena football. Through the help of some of the Saints’ assistants, he said he’s made contact with some of the teams. Burlingame said he hopes it leads to an opportunity, but if not, he plans to start his own construction business.

Similar to the veterans, he’s just happy to have an opportunity to play. After all, Burlingame missed almost his entire junior season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

“I’m kind of trying to make up for that,” he said. “I just want to make this team better.”

SAINTS FALL TO SPARTANS

The Saints fell on the road last Saturday 36-0 to the British Columbia Spartans.

The loss drops the Saints to 1-2 this season, while B.C. remains undefeated at 3-0.

The Saints are on a bye this week before returning to action on Saturday, Aug. 2 on the road against Southern Oregon (Medford, Ore.). The Renegades (3-0) beat the Saints 14-6 in the season opener for both teams.

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