Jacob Burton, a 6-6, 250-pound senior, chose Arizona over Vanderbilt, UCLA and SDSU.
El Cajon Riley Reyes and his gasless Volvo puttered to a stop along East Madison Avenue on his way home from Granite Hills High.
Cars whizzed past, and friends who could have helped instead pulled out phones to record this beautiful episode of pure embarrassment.
Eventually, a familiar burnt-red pickup truck stopped near Reyes — and not so its passengers could mock the helpless football player sinking in the driver’s seat.
Jacob Burton, Reyes’ best friend since first grade, and Burton’s brother, William, stepped out of the truck, ran up to Reyes and helped him push the dead Volvo to safety on the side of the road.
“(Jacob’s) just that type of kid,” said Reyes, now a senior defensive back for the Eagles.
Burton also plays football for Granite Hills, and at 6-feet-6, 250 pounds he fit the bill to help Reyes that day. His size, excellent motor and good footwork have earned the senior a three-star rating from major recruiting services, allowing him to fit the bill for top-tier college football programs across the country as well.
Scholarship offers began pouring in his junior year when Burton grew into his Division I-ready frame. Schools from the Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten and Mountain West all recruited Burton.
“I was his size. We were like the same height. Then we got to freshman year and he just started growing,” Reyes said with a laugh. “And the last couple years he got like strong, like big, too. His biceps got huge.”
Burton committed to the University of Arizona last July over his other top choices — Vanderbilt, UCLA and San Diego State. He was visiting Tucson when the decision became clear.
“I don’t mean to be like weird or anything, but the sunset was going down and we were walking through campus and I was with my family,” Burton said. “It was just us and I was just kind of looking around and it just felt right.”
Burton elected to become a Wildcat despite deep ties with San Diego State football. His father, Brad, and uncle, Mitch, both played at SDSU in the late 1980s after graduating from El Capitan High. But Jacob said there was no pressure to follow in their footsteps.
“From the very beginning, like my freshman year, they said, ‘Hey when this recruiting stuff starts this is all you,’ ” Burton said.
Next up for Granite Hills (2-1) is a nonleague road game against Hoover (2-1) at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Burton enters the game with 18 tackles and four quarterback hurries as most opposing offenses try to stay away from him.
Granite Hills coach Kellan Cobbs called Burton the best defensive end he’s coached and admitted he was a little disappointed he wouldn’t be able to drive to Qualcomm Stadium to see Burton play next year.
“I was always kind of nudging him toward SDSU,” Cobbs said with a laugh. “But that was just me being selfish. He’s in a good spot.”
Tucson’s about a six-hour drive from San Diego, so it’s safe to say Reyes, Cobbs and Burton’s family will take some road trips over the next few years.
Hopefully, Reyes doesn’t run out of gas.