Panther Profile: Chris Burns

Over the next few weeks as the Panthers finish up spring practice, the Pantherdigest will be profiling the members of the class of 2008 that will land in Oakland this year. You will read several interesting stories about the future Panthers including Wilmington running back Chris Burns.

Many observers say Wilmington running back Chris Burns could be the best player in the Pittsburgh Panthers' 2008 recruiting class.

His statistics have been outstanding; 2,235 yards with 38 touchdowns and 9.0 yards per carry as a senior. More than 4,600 yards and 63 touchdowns during the past two seasons. A blazing (4.4) second 40-yard dash.

But there's more to Burns than just outstanding football and track statistics. His off-field interests deal with working with young children and he's already become something of a community figure in New Wilmington.

For instance, he leads elementary age kids in games and activities during Sunday school at the New Life Baptist Church.

His autograph was in demand by elementary and middle school students at a pep rally before the Greyhounds' Class AA state football semifinal game against Jeannette, and he's even been asked to sign things while working at a local pizza shop.

"It's pretty crazy," Burns said. "People would stare at you and ask ‘Do you play football?'"

A seven-year-old fan has even rescheduled his birthday party so that it does not potentially interfere with a state track meet so Burns can attend it.

True, most 18-year-old football studs aren't going to the birthday party of an unrelated second grader, but for Burns it goes hand in hand with his love of children.

He is the oldest of five kids, ages 12-18, and wants to major in education in order to explore a career as an elementary or middle school teacher.

To prepare for this, on Tuesday, April 15, he was scheduled to shadow the fourth grade class of Brent Harlon, a former assistant football coach of Burns, at New Wilmington Elementary.

"I think kids are funny. They make you laugh and do goofy things," Burns said.

"If I can start working with kids when they're young it can make the world a better place. When you start young, it can change their mindset."

As clichéd as "make the world a better place" can seem, one gets the feeling after talking to Burns he means what he says.

As an example, Burns gave a verbal commitment to Pitt more than a year ago. He stated he wanted to stay close to family, but there was always the thought that a nationally ranked program might be able to pull him away at the last moment.

However, message boards are filled with statements like "When the Burns family gives their word, they mean it."

"I won't go back on my word," Burns said. "Teams take their turns and in a few years Pitt will be there too."

He also liked the fact the Panthers' coaching staff were straight shooters to him, a comment made by many recruits of the Dave Wannstedt regime.

"Most coaches seem to put the icing on the cake. These guys are down to earth. They don't act like they're above you," Burns said.

For fun, Burns likes to play games on his Play Station, watches the NFL Network and running backs LaDainian Thomlinson and Adrian Peterson closely, and has a great sense of humor honed by his favorite comics; Bill Cosby, Jim Carrey, Kenan Thompson and Jack Black.

He's also likes to memorize quotes. His favorite is from George Washington Carver, and it shows Burns' depth of character, if not the hopeful definition Pitt fans have for his college football career.

"When you can do common things in an uncommon way you will command the attention of the world."


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