Burton's ACT score prevented him from playing college sports. At the time, his game of choice would have been basketball, but he also drew interest as a football recruit.
Frustrated with his situation and realizing he had only himself to blame, Burton eventually decided to take the initiative.
Three years later, that assertiveness has led him back in sports - as a starting pitcher at Culver-Stockton College. Burton acknowledges he learned a hard lesson a little too late, costing him a year away from the game.
"If I could jump back into high school realizing what I do now, I'd do it in a heartbeat," said Burton.
Burton attended Jefferson College in the fall of 2007 but was not eligible to play baseball.
He transferred to St. Charles Community College in the spring, continuing to improve his grades. Burton says his parents, Robert and Mary, reminded him they would only help him financially if he put forth the effort in the classroom.
"It's great because I had a lot of support the first two years not playing any sports," said Burton. "I feel like it helped me mature. Once I got to college and settled down, I realized I didn't just want to go to school."
Burton finally became eligible to play sports in the fall of 2008, but SCC did not have a basketball team.
He joined the baseball team as a pitcher, despite having been an outfielder throughout much of his high school career. Burton had made just seven appearances as a pitcher during his senior year of high school.
Willing to pursue any opportunity that might lead him back into organized sports, Burton obliged.
"I had started missing sports a lot," said Burton. "I would go to all of the open gyms just to stay active."
But his pitching arsenal didn't particuarly develop until he reached Culver-Stockton.
Burton's performance at SCC was good enough to draw interest from Culver-Stockton and Fontbonne University in St. Louis.
Two major factors played into Burton's decision to attend Culver-Stockton. He didn't expect his parents to continue paying for his education, and Culver-Stockton was able to make a more generous scholarship offer. Burton was also enticed by the small-town atmosphere surrouding Culver-Stockton, located in the rural Northeast Missouri town of Canton.
"They called me 'big county' on the mound," said Burton. "They knew I was from a farmland type of town, plus I was the biggest guy on the field."
When he arrived at the NAIA school in the fall of 2009, Burton was still a project in the making. He relied primarily on a fastball and the strength he possessed to deliver it.
"When he came in, we really didn't know what to expect, since he hadn't pitched a whole lot at St. Charles," said Culver-Stockton coach Chris Terry. Terry says Burton's size was an immediate advantage but his ability to mix pitches was limited.
"He's 6-foot-3 and left-handed, and that's something we can't teach very well," said Terry. " ... When he came in, he was getting by with throwing the fastball. He was really one-dimensional."
Culver-Stockton provided Burton with a pitching coach, something SCC had not been able to offer. He strengthened his arsenal and began anxious for a chance to prove himself as a closer - a position Culver-Stockton had been looking to fill.
"He's motivated and wanted the opportunity to come in and see what he could do," said Terry.
His role as closer didn't last long. Burton shifted into a reliever role before becoming the Wildcats' top starter. He says it all happened in a matter of about three weeks.
"We threw him in a nonconference game against Avila, and he looked great," said Terry. "From that point on he worked his way into being our No. 1 starter."
By season's end, Burton had made 11 appearances, including eight starts. He recorded a 4.91 ERA through 44 innings pitched.
"My slider developed, and I had a good breaking ball," said Burton. "They told me to throw the fastball high and follow it with a split finger."
Burton posted a 4-1 record, striking out 39 batters and walking 18.
With two more years of eligibility ahead of him, the possibility of developing into a draft prospect lingers.
"He could work his way into a pro-type prospect," said Terry. "If he adds more velocity and has more command, he has that prototypical body that scouts are looking for."
Burton had never flirted with the idea of a professional sports career in high school. There were distant dreams, but Burton says his lack of focus prevented them from ever becoming a reality.
It's something he is hoping to help other young athletes avoid. If an opportunity to play in the MLB doesn't present itself, Burton would like to become a physical education teacher and coach.