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By Nate Olson | Photos by Jimmy Jones 

To stand out on the football field at Warren, you must be unique. The town with a population of 6,000 tucked in rural southeast Arkansas surprisingly has produced some of the best football talent of any prep program in the state, including three NFL Draft picks.

So, longtime Lumberjacks coach Bo Hembree, who has engineered five state title runs, isn’t surprised by much. But then there was young Treylon Burks. The third-grader, who served as the Lumberjacks' ball boy, impressed Warren assistant coaches during pregame warm-ups as he snagged punts and kicks in midair with ease.

“He is special,” Hembree said. “He already had great ball skills back then, and he was such a good athlete playing football, basketball and baseball.”

Burks lived up to the promise and has become the most decorated Warren alum yet, lettering for four years and winning a state title in high school and then becoming one of the most sought-after wide receiver recruits in the country before reviving the listless University of Arkansas football program and helping them to the Outback Bowl last fall with one of the most impressive seasons turned in by a Hogs receiver in school history.

He has a chance to make more history Thursday night in Las Vegas if he is picked in the first round of the NFL Draft, where several draft experts have projected the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder to be selected.

“We don’t know what will happen [in the NFL], but [Burks] will have an opportunity, and he will have to do the most with that opportunity he can, and it takes a little luck,” Hembree said.

Just six years removed from shagging those kicks in pregame, Burks was playing on Friday nights for Hembree as a freshman.

“We moved him up [to the varsity], and he struggled a little bit at first, but he got better and better,” Hembree said.

In a Class 4A quarterfinal playoff game against another Arkansas small-town power, Nashville, he made his presence felt. The Scrappers won the game en route to a state championship, but they couldn’t stop the young receiver.

“Nashville didn’t have an answer for him,” Hembree said.

After an offseason filled with hard work, Burks got even better, and he starred at receiver and linebacker as a sophomore, helping Warren to the Class 4A state championship. 


He enjoyed another stellar year as a junior, again leading a run to the state title game, where the team lost in the final seconds to Arkadelphia.

Burks’ senior season was cut short by an ACL injury.

When Hembree reflects on Burks’ high school career, it’s the dominance he remembers most. His impact in all facets was reminiscent of another former Lumberjacks and Razorbacks receiver, Jarius Wright. Wright lined up at receiver, quarterback and defensive back and was a return man on special teams.

Burks also played quarterback at times along with receiver and linebacker. He also punted and returned kicks. He very rarely, if ever, left the field.

“He was just the total package; he did it all,” Hembree.

Hembree credits the versatility that both Burks and Wright displayed in high school with their ability to shine for Arkansas as true freshmen.

“When you play that many positions in high school, you are going to pick up schemes better in college. You have a good understanding of the game,“ he said. “[Burks] had two offensive coordinators in two years and didn’t have any problems learning the playbook.”

Burks started nine of 11 games as a true freshman for Arkansas in 2019 and hauled in 29 passes for 475 yards. He was named second-team All-SEC as a return specialist by the coaches and was an SEC All-Freshman team selection.

As a sophomore, Burks claimed the No. 1 receiver job for the Hogs and totaled 51 receptions for 820 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games as a starter. He earned second team All-SEC honors by both the AP and coaches.

Last season, Burks totaled a career-high 66 receptions for 1,104 yards. Burks, who started all 12 regular-season games, was only the fourth Razorback in school history to record more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Burks was a first-team All-SEC selection by both the AP and coaches.

Burks was the big reason the Hogs finished 8-4 under second-year coach Sam Pittman after recording only three winning seasons in nine years and enduring two years of the Chad Morris Era, which yielded just four wins and an 0-16 SEC mark. The 8-4 mark was the best record since Arkansas finished 11-2 in 2011 in Bobby Petrino’s final season.

One of Burks’ best games came in a narrow loss to SEC power Alabama. On a third-and-one play, Burks lined up on the outside and battled a Crimson Tide defender for the ball and then cut to the inside and out-ran the entire Alabama secondary for a 66-yard touchdown.

“He does stuff most kids can’t do,” Hembree said. “He lined up on the outside nine times and caught a pass eight times and the other time drew [a pass interference penalty].” 

Burks caught eight passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the Alabama loss.

After the season, Burks had a tough decision to make. Would he play in Arkansas’ Outback Bowl game in Tampa, Fla., against Penn State or sit out to concentrate on preparing for the NFL Draft? 

He turned to his old coach for advice. 

After Burks attended Warren’s home playoff win against Stutttgart in late Noveber, he asked the coach to meet him at the fieldhouse on Sunday before he returned to Fayetteville.

Hembree, in turn, did internet research on the bonuses for first-round picks, as Burks was projected there, and he also consulted with Wright.

“It was tough because I have never been in that situation,” Hembree said. “I told him I wanted what was best for him. I know there are some people who have agendas, but I wanted what was best for him. But I didn’t know much because the NFL people I talked to weren’t going to say much. I leaned on Jarius a lot because he lived it. He was a fourth-round pick and spent eight years in the league, having to keep his spot. If you are a first-round pick, that [bonus] money is guaranteed.”

After discussions with Hembree and Wright, Burks opted out of the Outback Bowl and Arkansas beat the Nittany Lions 24-10.

“If it was a bigger bowl, I think he would have played,” Hembree said. “It also made a difference when all of those Penn State players opted out.”

Since that time, Hembree has spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with NFL scouts. When they ask him how good Burks really is, his sales pitch is simple.

“I ask them to tell me who Arkansas’ No. 2 receiver was,” Hembree said. “They can’t do it because there wasn’t one. All of those other receiver prospects had other receivers. [Burks] had to do it on his own. There wasn’t a legit guy to take the pressure off him. 

“Everyone in the SEC knew he was going to get the ball and couldn’t stop him. It’s been that way since he was in seventh grade. When every team knows you are going to get the ball, and they still can’t stop you … It was that way for Bret Smith, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Chris Gragg [all former Warren receivers], too. None of the elite high school defenses could stop them, and they kept getting the ball. That is special when you can do that. Do you think that Nick Saban didn’t know Arkansas was going to pass the ball to [Burks]?”

The other popular topic among scouts was Burks’ speed. He was clocked at 4.55 seconds at the NFL Combine.

“I told [the scouts] Treylon is as fast as he needs to be,” Hembree said. “He’s never going to have to run out of a three-point stance and like that again. Show me the tape where he has been caught from behind. It has never happened. It didn’t happen in high school, and it didn’t happen at Arkansas.”

Different draft pundits have projected Burks to go anywhere from the mid to late first round, including veteran ESPN Draft guru Mel Kiper, who has Burks going No. 19 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

It could be high drama for Burks as he watches hoping to hear his name called Thursday night with Hembree by his side.

“It is going to be stressful,” Hembree said. “I watched with [Wright], and it was stressful.”