Keenan Burton had to watch, helplessly, from the sidelines as his friends and teammates struggled through a 2-9 season last year, and all Burton could do was watch.
"It was very tough," Burton said.
Now Burton is back.
Burton broke his left wrist right before the season opening game against Louisville last year. He tried to play, but ended up having season ending surgery. Burton now says the wrist is at about 85%, but getting better everyday.
"The coaches have told me that if I play timid, I'm not going to play," he said. "I've just got to block it out, don't think about it, have fun talking trash and just play the game and have fun."
As a freshman, Burton was named to the All-SEC freshman team after catching 20 passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns. After being granted a redshirt, he still has three years of eligibility remaining with the Cats.
"I'm not the 'new kid' anymore," he said. "I've grown up. I've learned how to do the right things all the time. The younger guys are looking at you all the time, so you've got to stay positive even if you mess up or drop a pass. I've learned 'how' to play the game."
Burton will be a welcome return to a UK receiving corp that is already deep with Tommy Cook also returning from the "disabled list". He played quarterback at du Pont Manual High School in Louisville, and was going to get a look at quarterback this spring, but said new offensive coordinator Joker Phillips wants him to stay at receiver.
Burton says the best thing about this UK football team is the change in attitude. "The coaches are more positive," he said. "The coaches are really teaching us and showing us what to do. It's all based on attitude. The attitude is got to be there. That's why we're going to be a good team because we believe we are going to be a good team. In the past, we didn't believe these things. We believed we were going to be a 2-9 team, and that's what we were."