Burkhalter is Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year for 2nd-straight season

Published 1:26 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

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Nicholls State University’s P.J. Burkhalter is the Southland Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year for the second-straight year.

“It feels good,” Burkhalter said. “It’s great to win something like that back-to-back. I just give credit to my coaches and my teammates to pushing me everyday, every week.”

Winning the Conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Year along with being a first-team all-conference offensive lineman this year adds to a list of numerous awards the 2015 Franklinton High School graduate has won in college. He talked about the key to his success.

“Not being complacent, continuing to find little things in my game I can improve on and coach (Nicholls State offensive line coach) Lee (Roussel) still coaches me like I’m a freshman. He doesn’t take it easy on me. Other olinemen on my team continue to push and make me better everyday.”

Burkhalter was part of an offensive line that blocked for the conference’s top rushing team. This season, Nicholls State ran for 1,844 yards and 25 touchdowns. The Colonels averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 263.4 yards per game on the ground.

When asked about his skillset as a lineman, Burkhalter said he feels like he is equal between pass and run blocking, but feels he is more dominant in the running game.

“I like moving another human being against their will,” Burkhalter said.

Burkhalter’s lesson in perseverance continues.

Burkhalter has overcome low kidney function after having blood in his urine following  Franklinton’s spring game in 2014. He was able to play his senior year of high school by wearing something to protect his kidneys that is similar to what quarterbacks wear.

After going through his senior season at Franklinton with no problems and going through workouts with Nicholls in the summer of 2015 and having no problems, he was told he could never play football again because of his kidney the day before fall camp began. In a Daily News article in 2017, Burkhalter said that the doctor was worried about him dehydrating and draining it more. He said that basically, he didn’t want Burkhalter on dialysis at 21 years old and not able to live a normal life.

Burkhalter continued to believe that football wasn’t over and focused on nutrition and training to lose weight. Burkhalter lost about 60 pounds and that allowed his kidney to not have to work as hard.

Burkhalter went to CrossFit in 2016 with the doctor that did not clear him to play. In that article, Burkhalter said that the doctor saw him progressing and losing weight. Burkhalter was cleared to play by that same doctor in 2017.

He spoke about how he went from being told he could never play again to being the two-time Southland Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year.

“I think I got from that point to this point by hard work,” Burkhalter said. “Believing that football wasn’t over for me, so I continued to work hard mentally and physically. I think it was consistency over the two years that I wasn’t playing, with getting my mind and body right. I was staying ready. I knew high school wasn’t my last snap of football. I think those two years helped me mature as a person. When I came back, I think I was mature enough to handle everything college could throw at you.”

Every 2020-21 Division I athlete is eligible for an extra year of eligibility, so Burkhalter is coming back for one more year of college football.