T.J. Burkett has come a long way fast in harness racing. After graduating from Michigan State University with an agricultural communications degree just six years ago the talented 29-year-old is now the executive editor of the United States Trotting Association's monthly Hoof Beats magazine.
Mind you he was always destined for a career in harness racing. He's always loved standardbreds. His father trained horses when he was a younsgter.
"When I did my four years at University I really wanted to find work within the harness racing industry. Dad was a full-time truck driver but always had three or four horses which he raced at fairs in Michigan. That's when my love and knowledge of the sport stemmed from," Burkett told Harnesslink.
Born Timothy Joseph (T.J) in Michigan's largest south-western city of Kalamazoo, Burkett's father Charles (who goes by the name Timothy) hasn't trained or driven since 2005 - but has a career record of 21 training and driving wins.
In fact Burkett junior is no slouch in the sulky either having saluted the judge eight times at county fairs and qualifying events between 1998 and 2009.
"I first drove when I was 16 and it's something I really enjoy doing, but I'm really busy with work these days and Maria and I only got married last July and we have been kept busy with a home we recently bought.
"Outside work I'm also getting into curling quite seriously in the winter and I like travelling to matches throughout the US and Canada," Burkett said.
"However, I hope to get back to driving again one day for sure," he added.
His colours are yellow with green and white diamonds. He said he modelled them off Wally Hennessey's colours which include blue and yellow diamonds.
"I've been a huge fan of Wally's for years. I've long admired his skills in the sulky and there are not many reinsmen out there that can boast almost 8,000 career wins," Burkett said.
When Burkett got his bachelors degree in 2005 he initially worked for a truck company and then in the insurance industry before landing a job in January 2006 as an associate editor for the Horseman and Fair World magazine - an independent harness racing magazine established in 1877.
He was based there in Lexington (Kentucky) for one year before becoming a mutuel teller, also at Lexington, in January 2007.
Ten months later he founded himself based in Columbus Ohio where was employed by the USTA's Hoof Beats executive editor Nicole Kraft as an associate editor.
Then when Kraft left to become a journalism professor at the Ohio State University last June Burkett was appointed interim executive editor.
In December 2010 he was named executive editor of Hoof Beats.
"It's a wonderful job and one I've always dreamed about. Eighty per cent of my work is with the magazine and 20 per cent is with the USTA's communication's department.
"With Hoof Beats I do things like scheduling all the stories; assigning stories; writing feature and profile pieces; co-ordinating the editing, and approving the overall design -amongst other assignments.
"With the USTA I take my turn editing the newsroom and putting up stories as well as overseeing the social media aspects of the organisation like Facebook, Twitter, etcetera." Burkett also attends all the major meetings and as you can see by the photos below can often be seen fronting and interviewing USTA TV shows.
He's been to all the big tracks and big races in America and Canada - but asked if there was any single horse that stood out in his life to date, he replied:
"Moni Maker. As a teenager I was fascinated by that filly trotter. She absolutely dominated her class in the 1990s and ended winning 67 of her 105 starts and just over $5.5 million. Wally (Hennessey) drove her throughout her career," Burkett said.
His wife, his work, his family, his home, harness racing and curling aside, Burkett also said he enjoyed playing softball and golf.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
1) T.J. Burkett interviews with World Trotting Derby winning trainer Greg Peck and driver Luke McCarthy, Cane Pace winning driver Dan Dube, and a look back at the 2004 Little Brown Jug.
2) Behind the scenes of the shoot with T.J. Burkett, Hoof Beats' then associate editor
3) Eye On Harness Racing
4) Eye On Harness Racing