Late brother’s memory drives Giants rookie OL hopeful Jake Burton

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The father tells the story about his oldest boy, two years older than his kid brother at the time.

“Jacob was the ideal big brother, William really looked up to him, so we were fortunate that they got to play together in high school for a few years,” Bradford Burton told The Post.

“Even when they were small, Jacob always looked out for him. One time on our back porch, they were home with my wife, and there was a rattlesnake, Jacob heard it rattling, and he was 4 ¹/₂ or 5, William was like 2, 2 ¹/₂, he pulled William and grabbed him and took him inside. They had a great relationship.”

Jacob, all these years later, recalls it this way: “We thought it was a sprinkler. William turned the corner, and I kinda pulled him back.”

Jacob Burton — or Jake — was proudly wearing his blue No. 70 at Giants minicamp on Friday, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound free agent dreamer who played right tackle at UCLA and then guard at Baylor, after transferring there when the Pac-12 opted out of the 2020 COVID-19 season.

One of the driving forces in his life is William Burton.

The kid brother who played two years of high school football alongside him on the defensive line and at tight end at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, Calif., near San Diego.

The kid brother who was a 6-foot-6 southpaw pitcher who loved Clayton Kershaw and Dontrelle Willis and threw in the mid 90s.

The kid brother who perished when he was thrown out of the back of a Jeep one fateful Monday night, while returning from the end-of-season banquet.

“He’s always in my heart and in my head, every day,” Jake said.

William was 17. Jake was at UCLA when his father called with the tragic news.

“The worst nightmare, the worst thing, you know, coming true, and basically flipped my life upside down,” Jake said, “and it was never gonna be the same, and it took a lot to accept that … like it’s one of those things that you never ever get over or anything like that. But instead, you kinda just learn to live with it a little bit more every day. It’s the worst thing you could ever thinks about coming true.”

Bradford Burton coached Jake in eighth grade. He and his wife, Donna, have a third son, Zachary, who is at Granite Hills and plays defensive lineman and tight end, just as Jake and William did.

Jake (who had a 3.8 GPA in high school) and William had completely different personalities.

“Jacob’s always been just a blue-collar grinder, success-driven guy,” the father said. “William, I think, was the classic left-handed pitcher guy, kind of a free spirit and really happy-go-lucky, which was great for him as a pitcher. He never let anything bother him, never really got rattled.”

Jake: “William made everyone around him smile, everyone around him laugh. He just made people smile. I’ve never seen anybody make literally everybody smile, laugh that much.”

Jake recalled one scrimmage.

“This was going into my senior year,” he said. “We were scrimmaging against a different team, but we weren’t allowed to tackle the quarterback. [William] came around on the edge; he just smoked him. The opposing coaches and players were kinda like yelling, and he [was] just smiling, laughing all the way through. Whereas … I was kinda nervous if we were gonna get our coach in trouble or anything like that.”

Bradford’s twin brother, Mitch, was the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach during Jake’s high school days.

“He’s tenacious,” Mitch said. “At tight end, he would knock people off the ball 15 yards down the field. And defensive lineman, same thing, driving O-linemen back.”

Jake’s father played defensive line at San Diego State and Uncle Mitch played tight end and fullback there. Jake modeled his game after J.J. Watt and Justin Smith when he played defensive line and Taylor Lewan and Lane Johnson when he was switched to offensive line.

Jake is eager to please Giants head coach Joe Judge.

“He’s an amazing coach,” Jake said. “You could just tell that he’s a winner.”

He knows about the team’s history. “Four Super Bowls — ’86, ’90, 2007, 2011,” Jake said.

His parents and Zachary sent him a Facebook video for Baylor Senior Night last November, on which his mother said: “I wish William were here to also express how proud he is of you. I know he has looked down upon you every single day.”

And whenever Big Brother looks back up, he is assured that William would be smiling.

“Right now, I’m just trying to work hard and get better every single day and do everything I can just to improve and to stack days upon days,” Jake said, “and I think he’d be really proud of that.”

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