Athletic Feature: Coach Jesse Burleson
(ABILENE, Texas)–Coach Jesse Burleson had a specific dream after high school: to play football and then to coach at Hardin-Simmons. That dream was achieved in 2006 when HSU Coach Jimmie Keeling called and offered Burleson a position as an assistant football coach.
The Road to HSU
Attending Hardin-Simmons in 1995, Burleson was the first member of his family even to attempt going to college. When graduating high school, he was not completely set on where he wanted to go to college, until Coach Keeling stepped in, that is. “Coach Keeling asked me, ‘what are you looking for?’ and I said, ‘an opportunity.’” Burleson explained. “It was one of those things that you think is an accident, but it turns out to be where you needed to be.”
He graduated HSU in 1999 with a major in education and minor in history. “I wanted to teach history,” he said. “That’s what coaches do. They teach.”
After graduating from Hardin-Simmons, Burleson was a graduate assistant for a year before coaching four high school teams in six years. Beginning in his hometown, he coached the Clyde Bulldogs for one year before coaching the South Grand Prairie Warriors for two. He then moved to coach the Temple Wildcats for two years, wrapping up with the Odessa Permian Panthers for nine months before finally coming home to HSU.
“My dream was always to end up back here,” explained Burleson. “I didn’t know if the opportunity was ever going to come back up.”
Burleson began as the assistant coach in 2006 and was named head football coach in 2010.
The Burleson family have been members of the Beltway Park Church since 2006. While his work often keeps him busy, he enjoys spending time with his family on vacations to the beach. “It’s family and football,” Burleson said.
Burleson received his master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2017 and often uses it in his every day coaching. “That’s my job,” he explained. “I do a little bit of coaching, but I do a whole lot of counseling.” He further explains that this method is a great way to help incoming students with their recent transitions into college.
When attending school at HSU in 1995, Burleson was already married to former Lois Lee who was pregnant with their first daughter, Marisa who is now 22. Burleson and Lee both graduated from Hardin-Simmons University. Lee graduated with a nursing degree from the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing as a nontraditional student and is now the City of Clyde district nurse.
Burleson was named the 19th head coach of Cowboy football on Dec. 10, 2010, and is currently in his ninth season as head football coach at HSU. In the last four seasons, his teams have gone 9-2 and made their way to the NCAA playoffs each time.
2020 marks the eighth year of the Cowboy Football Auction and golf tournament. It is luncheon, silent auction, and golf tournament fully organized by coaching staff. “We do it to have a way to bring back football alumni and supporters, and to have the opportunity to combine the past, our alumni, the present, our players, and the future, the players who will be here next year,” explained Burleson. “We use that to enhance the family.” Over 500 people attended the auction in 2019.
“You’re going to see a team that’s determined to get to the next step,” Burleson said about the upcoming football season. The Hardin-Simmons Cowboys have won nine games per season the last four years. Burleson and the team are aiming to continue that impressive streak this year.
According to Burleson, he is inspired by seeing the guys on the team grow into good husbands, fathers, and men that inspire him every day. His favorite thing about working at HSU is getting to see what everyone on the team has done when they come back-what they thought was impossible to do.
The first home football game will begin at 6 p.m. against Trinity University at Hardin-Simmons’ Shelton Stadium.