In the early 1950s, St. James football was at its peak.
The Saints won 19 in a row from the end of 1951 through to the end of 1953, dominating teams from around the region, routinely brushing away opponents by 30, or even 40 points.
With that dominance, the Saints ended the 1953 season ranked #1 in the state.
At the center of this success, quite literally, was center and linebacker Maurice Burkhardt.
Burkhardt played four years of football, and quickly established himself as a dirt dog and a grinder, who always found himself in the middle of the pile.
“He always had the dirtiest outfit on the field,” remembers Maurice’s younger brother, Curt. “He was always at the bottom of the pile.”
Burkhardt was one of the unheralded stars on a team with a pair of explosive running backs in Norm Anderson and Gerry Kintzi. But it was often Burkhardt, and the rest of the offensive line’s work, that opened the running lanes for those dominant Saint teams.
Burkhardt’s blue-collar style of play rubbed off on those Saints teams.
The 1953 team used the tone set by Burkhardt to outscore their opponents by a mind-boggling 412-19. The Saints’ stifling defense didn’t allow a point until their fifth game, against Windom, which the Saints won handily, 56-7.
Off the gridiron, Burkhardt starred on the basketball court and was a sharpshooter at guard for three years.
Burkhardt also donned the red and black in baseball and in tennis, but his true love was football.
“He was pretty darn good at everything,” said Curt.
After his time at St. James, Burkhardt moved on to suit up for the University of Minnesota football team.
He coached by University of Minnesota legend Murray Warmath, who was just in his first season at the helm of the Gophers.
In his first season in the Twin Cities, Warmath provided Burkhardt with an ultimatum. He had to choose between playing football and becoming an orthodontist.
Burkhardt chose the latter, following his heart and launching a successful dentist career and as father, having three kids, Doug, John and Cathy.