Serra High School in Gardena (Calif.) produces a ton of FBS football players and most of the top ones tend to end up at USC.
Back in February during Serra's signing day celebration, five-star defensive lineman Rasheem Green and four-star linebacker John Houston declared their intentions to become Trojans by putting on their USC hats on live television.
A few minutes later the remaining graduating Serra football players came to the podium to announce their college decisions to their classmates and assembled media. Three-star wide receiver Deontay Burnett was expected to stick with his commitment to Washington State, but surprised just about everyone in attendance when he too announced he would be attending USC.
With no scholarships remaining, the Trojans were going to have to bring the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder in as a blueshirt, allowing him to count towards the class of 2016. Burnett spent the summer essentially as a walk-on before being given a scholarship after the start of fall camp.
So far Burnett has played in six games for the Trojans and has seven catches for 145 yards.
“I know other people have said I’m coming out of the shadows, but I just always knew I could play football, and that’s what I came here to do," Burnett said after the win over California. "I’m working hard on my craft, and just being the best I can be, so stuff like today can happen for me. I’ve just put myself in the best situation.”
Against Cal, Burnett caught three balls, all three for explosive plays, leading the team with 82 yards receiving. The Trojans have had some banged up receivers over the past couple of weeks, so Burnett's role has increased significantly.
“I felt like [I was a bigger part of the game plan] because at practice I was getting a lot of good plays and when it came to the game I just executed,” he said.
His signature play came late in the first quarter and it included a pair of his former high school teammates. Adoree' Jackson got the ball and tossed it to Jalen Greene, who found an open Deontay Burnett for a 34-yard gain.
“It was just spectacular and it was absolutely awesome," Burnett said. "The Serra trio coming from 2 [Jackson] to 10 [Greene] to 80 [Burnett], so it was pretty nice.
"Since Adoree' was in the backfield they were going to be attracted to him thinking he was going with the ball, then he tossed it back to Jalen Greene, and Jalen threw it to me. I was on a post route but acted like I was blocking, then I slipped up on a post. We just executed it so it came out perfect.”
Quarterback Cody Kessler has been happy that Burnett has become a bigger part of the offense.
“We’ve had some injuries and Adoree' had to play some more defense today, so Deontay had to step into that role and play some slot receiver. Steven Mitchell, Jr. was still a little hurt, so he wasn’t 100 percent, and it was Deontay’s time to play. He stepped up and the play wasn’t necessarily called for him. He was just in when we called the play, he happened to be there, he made his play, and he had a great impact today.
"I think he led the team in receiving yards and he does that all the time in practice. Whoever we’ve got out there we’re going to go in and just try to make some plays, and I’m just so proud of this team.”
Head coach Clay Helton has also been impressed with Burnett's play.
"Everybody reacts in a game differently as a freshman," Helton said. "Sometimes the light comes on quicker than others."
Helton said that Burnett reminds him of fellow Serra alum Robert Woods because he is a student of the game who has an even temperament and always wants to get better each and every day.
"I thought it would happen, but maybe not this quickly," Helton said. "He has a really bright future here."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates from USC's win over Cal.
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Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at email@example.com.