The Grind, presented by Bank of Clarendon: Josiah Burson serves as Laurence Manning's humble superstar


If you've watched a Laurence Manning football or basketball game during the last two seasons, you almost certainly know the name Josiah Burson.

On the gridiron, Josiah has been an integral part of consecutive state championship runs, dominating on both sides of the ball as a defensive back and wide receiver. On the court, he's an all-state hooper with the ability to score at will.

Away from the sport, he's quiet. Josiah only boasts about himself when he's trying to draw the attention of college coaches. That's only done out of necessity in an age where X, formerly known as Twitter, is the hub of college recruitment.

Josiah has developed into an elite athlete despite a sophomore season that could've easily extinguished his love for athletics. But that's just Josiah, the kind of player most coaches wish they could multiply.

"He's extremely humble, he's respectful, he wants to do the right thing. He's not about himself; he's about winning and making the team better," Laurence Manning basketball coach Will Epps said. "Just the kind of kid that you want to be around, you want your sons to model his behavior on and off the court."


Josiah just wrapped up his senior football season this weekend. He and the Swampcats had only one thing on their mind: being the team to finally beat Hammond.

The Skyhawks entered Friday's state championship having claimed six consecutive titles. The first five came in SCISA 3A, and last year's came over Laurence Manning in SCISA's newly formed 4A classification. The 'Cats have become far too familiar with Hammond, as three of the last four seasons have ended with the two programs vying for a championship.

This was going to be the year LMA flipped the script.

Early on, the 4A title game was all Laurence Manning. Hammond muffed a punt almost immediately, setting up a touchdown by Jackson Brunson. An interception by Bryson Smith gave LMA another short field. A couple plays later, quarterback Tyler June lofted up a pass to Josiah into the end zone, and suddenly the 'Cats were up 14-0.

"Jackson scored, and that got us amped up for real. We knew we could beat them. The second drive, they get a pick to Smitty and put us in good field position again. Then Tyler just threw it up to me, and I caught it," Josiah said. "We were really amped up. We weren't too amped up because we knew the game wasn't over, but we were hyped."

Hammond made a comeback, but LMA still held a narrow 1-point lead in the fourth quarter. An ill-timed fumble, however, gave the Skyhawks a golden opportunity to score. Andrew Turner floated a ball to 6'4" tight end Micheal Turner just over Josiah's outstretched arms for the game-winning score.

"I should've played the ball instead of him," Josiah said. "I'm a ball hawk, so if I played the ball, I know I would've picked it. I just tried to play it safe, but I should've stayed me."

There was time left for a comeback, but the LMA offense couldn't move the ball down the field to force overtime in a 28-21 loss. Josiah felt almost numb on the field, but that changed once he stepped into the locker room.

"It didn't hit me until I went in the locker room, and then I was just sad," Josiah said. "We had it, but we lost it. I was more mad than sad."

Josiah isn't one to take moral victories either. Playing for consecutive state titles is something to be proud of, but Josiah is more focused on the result.

"My goal was really to win a state championship and not just be runner up in every one," he said, bluntly. "I don't really look at it as successful, but maybe I will once I graduate."


That championship loss hurt because of the amount of work Josiah and his teammates put in to put themselves in position to finally claim a title.

Josiah came over to Laurence Manning in the ninth grade and got his first taste of varsity action as a sophomore. His breakout came in early October, when the Swampcats hosted Porter-Gaud on homecoming. He intercepted two passes, including the game-winner in a 21-17 victory. He was on top of the world.

"The first time I got in, I let a touchdown up. I was just ball watching, and my teammates did a good job of giving me confidence to go back out there because I had my head down," Josiah said of the game. "When I got back out there, I caught the pick at the end of the half, and I caught that other one in the fourth quarter. They tried me again, and I caught it."

But that high soon came crashing down.

Two weeks later, LMA was getting on the bus getting ready for a trip to Pinewood Prep when a truly devastating call came in. Josiah's father, Justin Burson, passed away after a diabetes complication just before Laurence Manning was preparing to leave.

Josiah was quickly moved off the bus so he could be with his family in a challenging time.

Through the loss of his father, Josiah wanted to use football as an outlet. That was soon taken away, as well. He suited up against Trinity Collegiate the following week, and a teammate crashed into his elbow.

"I thought it was just like a stinger, so I tried to stay in, but I couldn't move it. I couldn't fold it," Josiah said. "It was just stuck, so I had to come out of the game."

Less than a month removed from his breakout game, Josiah was on the sideline with an elbow injury. He would miss the rest of the football season and half of his sophomore year of basketball.

"It was frustrating," he said. "I wanted to be out there with them, but it was God's plan."

Josiah's mother, Ebony Washington, still gets emotional flashing back to that time.

"I can't lie, it was hard," she said. "As a parent, you're asking your children if they're OK, and they say they're OK, but you know they're not OK. It was a challenge, but Josiah is a go-getter; he doesn't show his emotions at all. I was just proud that we were able to get through that as a family and get to the point where we are now in the healing process. I know that his father and my father are so proud of him.

"I get emotional because that was very challenging for my kids, and a lot of people don't know that, and I don't like to make excuses. We just push through it and we go through it together, and that's exactly what we did."

In a challenging time, Josiah turned to the most consistent thing in his life.

"I just prayed," he said. "Sometimes, when I don't know what to do, I just pray and keep trust in God and follow his plan."

But the Swampcats rallied around Josiah. Even though he was just in his second year at the school, Laurence Manning showed nothing but love and support, which Ebony will never forget.

"His entire team, his coaches, his best friend Jackson Brunson, they really helped Josiah through that," Ebony said. "When he decided he wanted to go to Laurence Manning, it was kind of far, and I was kind of skeptical at first, but the way they love my child, the way they show him support not only to him, but my family, that meant a lot. That's what helped him get through what he went through his sophomore year."

Laurence Manning head football coach Will Furse credits Josiah's ability to come back from a season that could've squashed his love of sports.

"It speaks to his mental toughness, I think, his love for the game, his love for his teammates," Furse said. "He's done a phenomenal job of showing mental toughness making huge play after huge play for us over the last three years."


Once Josiah came back, he picked up right where he left off.

As a junior, Josiah was an all-area defensive back, racking up 62 tackles to go with two interceptions, a forced fumble and seven pass breakups. The only struggle was making sure teams threw the ball his way. The challenge as a standout defensive back is that opposing teams are quick to throw the ball to the other side of the field.

"It feels great, but sometimes it can be frustrating because you need stats to get coaches to look at you," Burson said of the pride that comes with teams avoiding him. "If nobody's throwing your way, you can't get stats."

As he prepared for his senior year, he got the chance to show off his skills on offense. Josiah still balled out on defense, intercepting four passes with seven pass breakups to go with 50 tackles, but he was able to blossom as a receiver. He caught 38 passes for 745 yards and 13 touchdowns, though he also had three called back because of penalties.

As the season progressed, teams started to game plan specifically to slow him down. Josiah didn't mind.

"I think it's easier for offense," Josiah said. "You still have a chance to make a play, even if you are getting double-teamed. On defense, if they don't throw the ball your way, you can't do nothing about it."

Laurence Manning started spreading the ball around more, which Josiah was thrilled to see. Furse gushed about the fact that his receiver was happy to not have the ball in his hands if it meant the team was succeeding.

"When one person scores, we all score. Josiah really bought into that," Furse said. "A lot of touchdowns were scored this year based on the focus that was given to Josiah by opposing defenses."

Josiah also just made plays.

"He was able to get open through double teams. We put in some motion for him so he could stress the coverage a little bit, try to get him one on one. When we were able to do that, he made plays, and he made plays in double coverage a lot of times," Furse said. "Sometimes there would be three or four defenders around him, and he would jump up and get it. It's his mental toughness. He thought one man couldn't stop him, and two men couldn't either."


This season was made more special because of a new transfer with the Swampcats: Josiah's younger brother, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah made the move from Sumter High to reunite with his brother for the first time since they suited up for Bates. It was special for Ebony, if not just because it meant she could easily watch both of her sons at the same time.

"It just brought back memories of when they were playing when they were 5 years old," Ebony said. "I was comparing pictures and showing them, 'Look how far you've come.' I really enjoyed watching them play together. They play so well together. If you thought you saw something in football, they play really well together in basketball. I'm excited for that season as well."

Josiah and Jeremiah were excited from Day 1.

"When he decided to come here, I was like, 'State championship, for real,'" Josiah said. "That's all we talked about was state and hyping each other up on the football field."


Now that Josiah is done with football season, his attention quickly turns to basketball.

There's no rest for the wicked when the football team plays for state. The Swampcats suited up for games the day after the championship, though Josiah was able to take the day off. Thanksgiving week provides his only week of reprieve. Then it's time to hit the hard court.

"It's hard on a basketball program when the football team is that successful, but we wouldn't have it any other way," Epps said after standing on the sidelines anxiously watching Friday's state championship game. "I've learned in the last 10 years or so to be patient with it. It's a marathon, not a sprint; we're not going to get where we need to be immediately. We might lose some games early that we could've won if we had been more prepared. But that's a part of it. You want to play your best basketball at the end of the year."

Josiah isn't too worried about the stresses of preparing for basketball.

"It's a little challenging, but once I get back into it, I'll be good," Josiah said. "(This week is about) getting my body right, for real. Getting some rest, getting time so I can get back used to basketball."

It can be hard to balance two sports at once. Not for Josiah. If anything, Epps has to tell him to take a break from hoops during football season.

"He loves to play; he loves to compete. You don't have a problem with him hiding from competition," Epps said. "As a matter of fact, we were going to do a fall league over at Trinity, and he wanted to play on Sunday in the fall league during football season, which is not allowed. He's like, 'Come on, coach, I can do it.' I told him he's having too good of a football year to be selfish and get hurt playing essentially a pickup basketball game in the fall.

"You don't have to worry about doing what he's supposed to do. He's going to do what he's asked and develop. And he's just a naturally gifted young man. Don't let me confuse any of this that I'm taking credit for his development because the boy has good genes."


Josiah's football days are far from over. He has his sights set on college ball. It's just a matter of where he'll play.

It's a challenging time to be a high school senior, especially at a SCISA school. It's hard enough to get attention from college coaches in the era of the transfer portal, but SCISA athletes tend to be overlooked because of the level of competition.

"People outside probably say we don't play competition, but people at Hammond, that tight end has probably about 10 DI offers," Josiah said. "I don't see why people see it as no competition, but there's a lot of competition in SCISA."

He received his first offer from St. Andrews this summer and has talked with coaches from The Citadel and Erskine, making a trip to visit the Flying Fleet on Monday. All Josiah wants is an opportunity to show his skills at the next level. The rest will take care of itself.

"All I need is a chance, for real," Josiah said. "Once I get it, my actions will show from there. … All I need is a chance."