Anthony Burroughs currently serves as the crew chief for the Clint Bowyer Racing car No. 5. But even though he is a former Dirt Late Model racer himself, this team leader for driver Don O’Neal’s efforts does not necessarily come from a traditional dirt racing background.
In this week leading up to the storied Iron Bowl between the University of Alabama and Auburn University, Burroughs recently took some time to recall his own playing days while wearing a Crimson Tide jersey.
Burroughs played at Alabama from 1991 to 1995 under the watchful eye of head coach Gene Stallings. The highlight of his football playing career came when he played on the Tide’s national championship winning team in 1992.
Alabama took on the Miami Hurricanes, who were coached by Dennis Erickson and led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Gino Torretta. Despite going into the game as underdogs, Alabama came away the winners by a one-sided score of 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
So what does Burroughs remember about that game?
“I just remember that whole deal,” the crew chief said in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “We played Miami and we were major underdogs going into that game. Everybody had us picked to just get blown out and it turned the other way. Our defense was excellent, we ran the ball up and down the field, we had that big turnover George Teague had on that interception where he stripped the ball. Just that whole experience was great. It’s hard to describe what we accomplished during that time.”
The unexpected victory gave Alabama a perfect 13-0 record for the season and delivered another national championship trophy to Tuscaloosa.
Other memories Burroughs has of his playing days wearing the crimson and white uniform include those of the guidance he received from coach Stallings. The leader of the Alabama football program at the time was known for his hard nosed, no-nonsense attitude. The former fullback agrees with the long held assessment of Stallings’ character and leadership style. His players definitely considered their coach to be an old school disciplinarian and leader.
“You’re 100% correct,” Burroughs remembered. “I tell this story all the time about my sophomore year when we were getting ready to go up to Tennessee- we were a run first team -and he gets up in the meeting on Tuesday and says, ‘There’s no reason we can’t got to Tennessee and run toss-48 every play and win the game‘. And we’re sitting there thinking he was crazy. Yeah, he was one of them guys who was all about discipline. If the meeting started at 2:30, you better be there at 2:15. He was just one of those hard nosed guys. He got every ounce out of you that you had.”
Did playing major college football for such a demanding coach serve to prepare Burroughs for the rigors of racing on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series?
“It did,” Burroughs agreed. “My dad kind of raised me that way too. The lessons I learned and the degree I got while I was there, and certainly I learned a lot in the classroom, but the lessons learned out there on the field come back to me just about every day.”
As many fans know, competing on a national touring Dirt Late Model series requires endless hours of travel, work, and sacrifice. The Clint Bowyer Racing operation certainly has high quality equipment to take their teams all over the country, but it does not really compare to the way an SEC football team travels.
“We would get on a plane in suit and tie,” the crew chief remembered. “We would always go to a movie the night before a game and everybody else would look around and wonder if the mafia had just walked in when they would see these guys coming in wearing suits. The travel I do now is definitely different, but it’s all good.”
The graduate of Lauderdale County High School in Rogersville, Alabama proudly recalls the run of success that the teams he played on enjoyed during his days at Alabama. Aside from the national championship game in the Sugar Bowl, those Crimson Tide teams added numerous trophies to the program’s collection.
“In my four years there we went to the Blockbuster Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl and my senior year we were going to play for the national championship again but Florida beat us in the SEC Championship game so we went to the Citrus Bowl,” he pointed out. “I played fullback but most of the playing time I got was on special teams. I wasn’t one of those guys with a lot of ability, I just worked really hard.”
When his football playing days came to an end, Burroughs sought an outlet to channel his competitive juices. While football had been a major part of his early life, racing was a logical next step based on the influence of his father.
“I was raised to be a football player,” he declared with a smile. “When I was twelve years old my dad had me out pushing him up and down the street in a pickup truck. I played sports my whole life. When I got out of college and went back home, my dad was real mechanical and smart, and I had some cousins who ran Thunder cars and stuff and he was building their engines. I talked him into us building a Modified because I had to have something to do.
“We did that and then I moved to Late Models, then I got to the point that I raced full-time for a while and it just kind of went from there,” Burroughs continued. “I certainly didn’t realize I would be doing this for a living when I was in college. It’s funny that when I was in college I never could picture myself doing anything besides coaching football. Now, I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t doing this.”
The self discipline acquired while playing football has carried over into Burroughs’ racing career, particularly in regard to the amount of time and work required to be successful in the sport.
“We put in an awful lot of hours but it’s rewarding,” he explained. “It’s just like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.”
But even as busy as he is preparing cars for O’Neal, the crew chief still keeps an eye on his old team when they take to the gridiron.
“I keep up with it, oh yeah,” he insisted. “I have a son who is twelve who still lives in Alabama and he’s a massive Alabama fan. I get eight club tickets from lettering and he goes to all of that.”
However, this weekend’s game between Alabama and Auburn does not carry the same significance as it once did for the former player.
“You know, it’s funny. Of course I want Alabama to win but I’m not one of them who gets all torn up about it. When I was a kid, I was obnoxious. It was Alabama and no Auburn. I was actually recruited by Auburn too when I was in high school and had a nice visit down there. I’ve got friends who played at Auburn and we get along. But yeah, this week in the state of Alabama is pretty ridiculous.”