BURNS – During his freshman campaign, it wasn’t exactly anticipated that there would be a time when Jackson Kirkbride would be a key member of the Burns football team.

But things aren’t always as they seem, and Kirkbride’s emergence is an example of that. Now, the senior has become one of the Broncs’ top contributors on both sides of the ball after letting his presence be known last season.

He was the Broncs’ leading receiver with 18 receptions, 246 yards and four touchdowns through seven games.

“The cool thing about Jackson is, he wasn’t supposed to be this good at football,” Burns coach Brad Morrison said. “At a lot of schools, he’d be a basketball-only guy. But here, he shows he cares about his teammates, and he gives everything he has in football.”

Added Kirkbride, “Basketball was always a huge sport for me, but I felt like I’ve developed quite a bit and have become a good football player.”

Developing didn’t just happen for Kirkbride. It came with a lot of time spent in the weight room and taking time to understand the game. He bought into the summer weights program, he said, and his success was rooted there.

It helped Kirkbride remain invested in the football program and allowed Morrison’s hope that the skinny freshman would stick to the gridiron.

“He’s a good athlete that started out as a skinny, 120-pound freshman, and I thought, ‘I hope he stays out for football,’” Morrison said. “And he kind of just locked himself in the weight room the last couple years.

“He’s proof that getting in the weight room makes you better.”

While he was in the dedicated process of getting bigger and stronger, Kirkbride still remained on the slimmer side of things. For that reason, he managed to find other ways to find success on the field against bigger opponents.

“Being a lighter guy, I’ve learned how to use my leverage in situations and outsmart people instead of out-strengthen them,” the 6-foot-4, 175-pounder said. “So, that’s been a big part of my success. Just working hard and smart and never taking a play off.”

Last season, Burns transitioned to a spread offense from a run-heavy scheme. That transition comes mainly on the basis of personnel, but for Kirkbride, it’s allowed him to showcase his abilities.

The new offense isn’t the only thing he credits for his expanded role. He gives props to Burns quarterback Caden David, as well.

“It’s an adjustment, but one I love as a receiver. Transitioning to an air-raid offense has allowed me to unlock my potential,” Kirkbride said. “And we have the best quarterback in the state, no doubt in my mind, and I’ve been appreciative of being able to play with Caden.”

And standing at 6-4, Kirkbride provides a target that David appreciates and is a reliable option for the Broncs on the outside.

“Jackson’s a leader on the team as much as anyone I’ve had,” Morrison said. “He’s a kid that you trust; I have a lot of faith in him. It’s easy to call his number when I need to. He’s solid.”

Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at rmunoz@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.

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