Pell City football coach Keith Etheredge’s rebuilding process took another step in 2017. He led the Panthers to the playoffs, finishing with a 6-5 record after a first-round 34-7 loss to Shades Valley. A major reason for the improvement – and optimism for the next few seasons – was the emergence of sophomore QB Jackson Burkhalter. A transfer from 5A state champion St. Paul’s Episcopal in Mobile, the 6-5, 200-pound Burkhalter brought the Panthers a rare physical presence at the quarterback position. “His athleticism gave us another weapon we didn’t have before,” Etheredge said. “A kid his size, with his ability to move, makes the defense have to cover the whole field, which opens up multiple options for us, offensively.”
A multi-sport star – Burkhalter plays basketball for the renowned Atlanta AAU Game Elite squad. However, he only missed one game getting back on the field to help the Panthers finish their run into the playoffs. Despite just turning 16, Burkhalter has college coaches of both football and basketball drooling. And his measurables are just part of it. His leadership and toughness are intangibles that every coach desires for their team leaders. “He showed a lot of toughness playing the way he did,” Etheredge said. “Jackson earned his teammates’ respect, and that’s a big part of any QB’s success – winning over your teammates. He certainly did that.” Burkhalter has no college preferences at this point of his career, though his family has ties to both Auburn and Alabama, as well as Vanderbilt.