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Je’Quan Burton, PJ Jules work college system in their favor; NFL is next | Recruiting Insider

Je’Quan Burton and PJ Jules are a testament to an applied belief that if a person stays his course, if he controls everything within his power, things can develop into a positive outcome like this past weekend’s Hula Bowl.

Their pathway wasn’t filled with glitz and glamour, the road wasn’t paved and they weren’t living the life at a dream school in a Power 5 football conference. The two, however, have proven that a player can reach his goals by staying focused and working hard toward every one of those goals. A player can reach the NFL from any level of college football, and if he can put forth the extra time and effort to get there, then the NFL is within reach.

Three months from now, Burton and Jules could be realizing that dream. Even if they don’t hear their names in the NFL draft, they are almost assuredly going to get a shot at making a roster.

From a young age, every athlete has visions of playing at the professional level … stardom, fame, money. It’s called living the dream. The word dream is thrown in there because that, realistically, is all it is for most players … a dream. Most athletes eventually wake up from that dream with a nightmare, realizing it was not meant to be.

Pictures: 2024 Hula Bowl at FBC Mortgage Stadium

Many of these athletes play the victim. Their reason for not making it is not their fault. There is always some other reason, some other person who held them back. It’s not themselves and their inability to work hard, fight through adversity and rise to every occasion. People like to place blame. It’s the American way.

Sure, some athletes don’t have the size, the speed or, quite honestly, the athletic ability it takes to succeed at the highest level.

As every person’s parents told them at some point in time: That’s life.

Some, however, are not willing to accept that. They’ll do anything to achieve. Burton and Jules are two of those players.

The two Jones High products are not unlike most young kids. They still have NFL aspirations. They’ve had their dreams dashed. But they refused to let that be the final chapter. Burton and Jules aren’t quite finished.

Burton’s path wasn’t easy to navigate. He signed with Southern Illinois out of high school, but that decision didn’t work out and he ended up at Iowa Central, one of the top junior colleges in the country.

Burton played in four games as a freshman at SIU, thus preserving his redshirt year. He spent another season at Central before finally finding his landing spot in Boca Raton at FAU.

“I feel blessed and God leads me,” Burton said. “Going through it, there is always going to be trial and error, but as long as you get through it, anything is possible. My journey, for me it was easy, but for a lot of people it might be hard.”

In three seasons with the Owls, the 5-foot-10, 187-pounder had 84 catches for 1,277 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 483 yards on 25 kick returns, an average of 19.3 each. His production was enough to get an invitation to play in this past weekend’s Hula Bowl, a college football senior all-star game, at FBC Mortgage Stadium on the campus of UCF.

“When they gave me the call I was excited,” Burton said. “Being able to play in front of my family and play in front of my friends one last time … just to come out here and catch the ball and be able to show people what I can do was a great feeling.”

It was his chance to get in front of NFL scouts and find out how he stacks up against other elite competition from across the country.

“They don’t really say much. They just tell me how much they are interested and how much they like my game,” Burton said of the scouts, “so I take that as a blessing and an opportunity .. and that they will call my name.

“I know I’m going to get my shot. It’s just me taking the opportunity and running with it.”

He remains focused and will continue toward his goal, working out relentlessly until the April draft arrives.

“I just keep on working, keeping my head down … what happens in the dark must come to light, so me working out and continuing to do what I do, eventually it was going shine,” Burton said.

“I’m real excited. Just to see your dreams right in your face. This is something I’ve been dreaming about ever since I was a kid, so to actually be living in it, going through the process is real humbling and it’s a real opportunity.”

For Jules, a 6-foot-3, 209-pound safety, the path was not as winding. He played at SIU for three years and opted to enter the NFL draft early. Jules had 87 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery at SIU. He returned the interception 41 yards for a touchdown at Kansas State in 2021.

He, too, was pleased to be able to play his finally college game in front of friends and family in Orlando at the Hula Bowl.

‘It felt good,” Jules said. “It was just a great experience to be able to showcase what I can do, to showcase how vocal I am with my leadership and to also just have a good time.”

He played the entire Hula Bowl game at free safety, rarely leaving the field, and he was impressive in his coverage skills and with setting the defense from his centerfield position. Like Burton, he was able to talk to a few scouts.

“I met with a couple of guys and they told me they love the way I play the game and my mindset and my football knowledge,” Jules said. “It made me feel good, but I still understand there is more work to be done, more growth to be made and I’m just going to keep my head down and keep grinding right now.”

Like every player at the Hula Bowl, the NFL is the goal and Jules said he’s confident there’s a place for him.

“Only God knows, but I feel good about it,” Jules said. “I feel as if anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I’m super excited.”

Chris Hays covers high school and college football, as well as college football recruiting. He can be found on X @OS_ChrisHays and on Instagram @OS_ChrisHays. He can be emailed at chays@orlandosentinel.com.