The night of Nov. 18 was complex for Putnam City North lineman Daniel Burton.
As he and his family — longtime Oklahoma State football fans — watched the Cowboys' game at Iowa State, Burton was pulling for the Pokes to keep their national championship hopes alive.
But as the fourth quarter wore on, and Iowa State's upset bid continued to gain steam, Burton's true allegiance showed through.
“I had to turn around and pull for the Cyclones,” said Burton, who verbally committed to Iowa State in October. “That was a big win for the program. I was really excited, because that's where I'll be next year. I was pretty pumped up.”
Burton, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound tackle, anchored Putnam City North's offensive line as a three-year starter, and he's looking forward to the opportunity of helping an Iowa State program that appears to be making significant strides.
“I think the program's definitely on the rise,” Burton said. “Every place that recruits you tells you that their program is looking to make a major turnaround. But you can really see it at Iowa State this year with all the praise Paul Rhoads is getting.
“I don't know if they'll ever see a national championship, but they're definitely not the stepchild of the Big 12 anymore.”
Over the last several weeks, Rhoads' name was being mentioned in connection with several of the high-profile college football jobs that came open, most recently at Pittsburgh when Todd Graham left for Arizona State.
But the rumors and chatter never bothered Burton.
“He stressed that when I talked to him,” Burton said. “He told me, ‘This is my fairy tale. I grew up 10 minutes from here. This is where I want to be and where I've always wanted to coach.'
“When all that stuff happened, I didn't really worry too much about any of it.”
Burton's primary recruiter at Iowa State was Luke Wells, a former Oklahoma player who was a student assistant coach on the Sooners' 2000 national championship team.
“I stayed in contact with Coach Wells, and he said a little bit about it,” Burton said. “He just told me not to worry about it, that Coach Rhoads wasn't going anywhere.”
When Burton looks back on his high school career, he feels he fully enjoyed the experience, even though his senior year didn't go as well as he might have wanted for the Panthers.
“You'd like to have more wins on the chart at the end of the season, and playoffs and all that stuff,” he said. “I went through a lot of fun games and we tried to leave them with a good taste in their mouth in some ways. We finished the season strong. I was just trying to push the young guys to be as good as they could be.
“I wish it could have gone differently, but still had a good time and enjoyed it.”