Imani Christian 4-star junior Dayshaun Burnett makes verbal commitment to Penn State

Wednesday, February 7, 2024 | 2:43 PM

Dayshaun Burnett received his first college offer from Penn State almost two years ago, but the Imani Christian junior had a Nittany Lions connection that went back way further.

As a youngster, he lived in Churchill near current Penn State assistant coach Terry Smith, and that relationship played a role in the four-star recruit deciding now to play football for the Lions.

“Even before Penn State, he was a big part of my life,” said Burnett, who on Wednesday announced his commitment to Penn State. “He lived down the street from me as a young kid. He’s been pouring into me all my life. So I knew if I go up there, I’m going to be covered.”

A 6-foot-4, 220-pound outside linebacker and defensive end, Burnett verbally committed last Thursday when Smith and head coach James Franklin visited Imani Christian.

Burnett, who now lives in Apollo, was the fifth WPIAL recruit from the 2025 class to choose Penn State. He was also the second WPIAL linebacker in less than a week, joining Latrobe’s Alex Tatch, who committed Sunday.

“With a lot of guys being from the WPIAL, I feel like our chemistry is going to be unmatched,” said Burnett, who announced his commitment at an after-school event in Imani’s gym.

Burnett’s other finalists were Pitt and Rutgers. He said Pitt made a strong effort to land him, but Penn State’s schedule was another enticing option that helped him decide.

“Big Ten football is a different kind of football,” he said.

Penn State coaches told him they plan to use him at linebacker and defensive end — a versatile role he liked — and said they compared him favorably with former Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons, now an NFL All-Pro.

Recruiting website rates Burnett as a four-star prospect and the 20th-best outside linebacker recruit nationally. He was ranked seventh overall among Pennsylvania players in the 2025 class.

Imani Christian also has used him as a running back, quarterback and wide receiver. He was voted the defensive player of the year last season in the Allegheny Conference and earned a spot on the TribLive HSSN Terrific 25.

“There’s not much he can’t do,” Imani coach LaRoi Johnson said. “He’s extremely coachable. He’s one of the better athletes I’ve coached in my years.”

Burnett also had offers from West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin, among others.

He’s the second Imani Christian football player to commit to a Power 5 school, joining Kenny Robinson, a 2017 graduate who went to West Virginia.

Aliquippa running back Tiqwai Hayes, North Catholic tight end Brady O’Hara and Central Catholic cornerback Xxavier Thomas are also members of Penn State’s Class of 2025.

Burnett said there wasn’t anything specific Penn State did differently in its recruiting process compared with other schools, but he felt a strong relationship with the coaches there.

“It’s not just Coach Terry,” he said. “Coach James Franklin, (recruiting coordinator) Alan Zemaitis, all of those guys, I know they’re going to have me covered when I’m up there.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at


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