By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In today's day and age in sports, seeing junior college (JUCO) athletes transfer to division one programs isn't too uncommon. However, to have a player that is a JUCO transfer that attended a two-year mission trip to Brazil, is married and went from bench player to starter at a division one school is unheard of. Welcome to the life of senior midfielder Daniel Burnham.
Burnham, native of Boise, Idaho, joined the Nittany Lions in 2010 where
he only started two games all season. Two seasons later, he is a starter and
one of the main catalysts of the Nittany Lion offense.
"When Coach Warming came in and took over I didn't realize how much I needed to improve," said Burnham. "He was the one that helped me do that. He wants you to excel and through my sophomore and junior year I worked on passing and retention of the ball and when I came in senior year I had more confidence and was ready to play."
The 25-year-old senior credits his success not only to his coach, but also to his wife.
"The mission trip helped me know what I stand for as a person and helped me know who I am as a person," said Burnham. "A little over a year ago I got married and my wife has helped me become a better person, soccer player, and student."
Burnham said that through all of his struggles, his wife was the one that kept him going and kept him on a path of success.
"Every time I come home with doubts and with thinking that I want to not try as hard, she has always built me back up and told me this is what I am supposed to be doing," said Burnham. "I would attribute my improvement to my wife and she's been the one that has told me to keep going."
On the field, his teammates and coaches see him among one of the leaders of an upstart Nittany Lion team that is currently 3-1-1 in the early 2012 season. Fellow senior John Gallagher credits the person Burnham is to his ability to be a good leader on and off the field.
"If you are a good person people are going to respect you," said Gallagher. "If he tells you to do something on the field, all the younger guys respect him and listen to him and it translates to him on the field being a good leader because he is a good person off the field and a good person on the field."
His coach acknowledged the importance of having a leader like Burnham on the field, especially with younger players. Burnham has been the first one to practice and the last one to leave, even throughout his senior season.
Warming said by having a guy like Burnham on the team, it gives freshman no excuse to not work just as hard if there is a senior putting in the maximum effort to help the team succeed.
"I feel like I just want to go out and be a leader and be there when they need me and on the field do anything to score goals and play defense," said Burnham. "We all know we can be a great team if we do those things."
Looking back, Burnham and his coaches and teammates know it took a lot for his game to develop at the division one level. Still, he credits his coach for preparing him for a stellar senior season.
"Biggest thing for me with my relationship with him is that he (Warming) showed me he cared about my successes and after last season I got support from him as a coach. He wants all of us to succeed whether they are starters, bench or not playing," said Burnham.
Warming, however, disagreed and said he had little to do with the success of Burnham, it is just the maturity and dedication of his senior forward that has elevated his play.
"In my experience with the guys that I have had that have made that kind of improvement, 99.9 percent it is because of them," said Warming. ""For me, its really maturity that he has. Even if he doesn't become what he wants to be, he is going to enjoy the process."
Off the soccer field, his teammates know that not only is he a good player, but he is also a good person and his leadership goes beyond the grass of Jeffery Field.
"He is just a great guy, real into his religion and everything like that so it is awesome. He is just an overall good person," said Gallagher. "If you ever need advice he is always a good person to go to."
Burnham and the Nittany Lions have their first of two weekend home games starting Friday against Albany at 7 p.m. and Sunday against Adelphi at 3:30 p.m., both at Jeffery Field.