Stepping into the hallowed hall

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Gwin Burkett spent 15 years coaching at Andalusia High School and will be inducted into the Andalusia High School Bulldog Football Hall of Fame on Saturday at Andalusia High School.

Gwin Burkett will be inducted into the 2016 Andalusia High School Bulldog Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Burkett was credited as being an integral part of Andalusia’s 58 game straight regular-season games without a loss.

Gwin Burkett will be inducted into the 2016 Andalusia High School Bulldog Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Burkett was credited as being an integral part of Andalusia’s 58 game straight regular-season games without a loss.

“It’s just a great honor me first and foremost,” Burkett said. “To be included in the Hall of Fame with all these other great players and coaches that have been inducted, is just very humbling. It really is a great honor to have them select me to be inducted.”

Growing up in Georgiana, Burkett said that coaching football was something he always wanted to try.

“I played football at Georgiana and just always liked the game,” Burkett said. “I was told that you should try to find something that you enjoy doing, and that is exactly what I did.”

While playing at Georgiana, Burkett found a lot of success on the field, where he captured a state championship and was named as All-State quarterback.

“My senior year we went undefeated and won the state championship,” Burkett said. “Back then, though, you didn’t actually play in a state championship game, it was based on rankings from different newspapers.”

Burkett graduated from Georgiana in 1961 and then went to the University of Southern Mississippi where he played football for two seasons.

After leaving Southern Mississippi, Burkett went on to graduate from Troy State University with a bachelor’s degree, and then from Auburn University at Montgomery with a master’s degree.

His high school coaching career began shortly there after.

“My first job out of college was as head football coach at G.W. Long High School in Skipperville,” Burkett said. “I stayed there for four years before taking an assistant coaching job at in my hometown at Georgiana High School.”

Burkett stayed at Georgiana for three years and then left to take the defensive coordinator job at Newnan High School in Georgia.

It was after that job that Burkett made his way to Andalusia in 1973 as assistant coach.

Burkett came to Andalusia the same year as head coach Don Sharpe. Sharpe and other players credited Burkett as being an integral part of Andalusia’s streak of 58 straight regular-season games without a loss. The Bulldogs won two state championship and two state runner-up finishes while Burkett served at the assistant coach.

“The 1973 team that is being inducted this year was the first team that I coached at Andalusia,” Burkett said. “They have always had a special place in heart. That team was full of great athletes, and they are the ones that set the tone for the things to come in the next several seasons. They came in and bought into what we were doing from day one.”

Burkett said that the 1973 team was a special group of players.

“It’s very seldom that you come into somewhere and get a group like this one,” Burkett said. “The talent level was unprecedented and their determination to win is what drove them. Two of the guys on that team are getting inducted to the Hall of Fame this year also. Steve Posey and Lynn Shreve were keys parts of that team.”

Burkett said that Posey and Shreve have been some of his favorite players to coach, and guys that he considers as good friends to this day.

“Steven and Lynn were probably my favorite players that I coached,” Burkett said. “I was their position coach at Andalusia, and we spent many hours together on the field, in meetings or in the film room. I use to joke that during football season I probably saw them more than their parents did. I look forward to being on the stage with them on Saturday. With Steve being around, we still see each other on pretty regular basis. I haven’t talked to Lynn in a few years and I’m really looking forward to seeing both of them this weekend.”

Burkett said that his coaching philosophy was pretty straight-forward.

“You have to determine who your football players are first thing,” Burkett said. “The ones that like to play are usually the ones who are going to go out there and make plays. All we can do was try and get the best of out them, and all we could ask of them was to give it their best. The players have to buy in to what you doing, and you have to do what system best fits your players. It might not necessarily be what you are wanting to do, but you have to fit your system to your players and not the other way around.”

The biggest thing that Burkett credits to his success was the players that he coached.

“Your success nearly directly coincides with your athletes,” Burkett said. “If you have good athletes, you are probably going to have a better team than if you don’t. The secret to the whole thing is getting them to buy into what you are doing. If you can get them to buy in, then you are on your way to success.”

Burkett also said that hard work and determination played a big part in his teams’ successes.

“It kind of takes me back to that old say, ‘Winning isn’t everything. Preparing to win is everything,’” Burkett said. “That’s always been kind of my motto. Work hard and prepare to win.”

Burkett said that he has many great memories from coaching football at Andalusia High School, but some stick out more than others.

“We had some real close games with Enterprise that really stand out,” Burkett said. “Both times we played them the game came down to the wire, and we won both of them. Those are both games that I will never forget. The state championships and runner-up finishes are also moments that I will never forget. There were a lot of memorable moments in those days.”

Standing on the stage Saturday night with some of his former players and other Bulldog greats is something Burkett said he is looking forward to doing.

“It’s always good to see the old players and even coaches that will come into town for the induction ceremony,” Burkett. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all the guys off that 1973 team are coming back for the event. It’s going to be great seeing everyone, and a lot of them I haven’t seen in a very long time.”