Ed Thompson: Talk about your change of direction skills as a receiver after you catch the ball. I think it's an area that makes you particularly dangerous as a wide receiver.
Keenan Burton: I get that from being a kick returner and punt returner. And it's basically reaction, something that comes naturally. But I also watch a lot of film on other receivers that people say are really good, to see what they do right after the catch that makes them so good. And then I try to implement that into my game.
Thompson: You averaged over 24 yards per return both your junior and senior seasons as a kickoff returner. Is that something you want to do at the pro level?
Burton: Definitely. I'll do whatever's asked of me, whatever's needed. And I haven't done it at that level yet, so I can't say that I will be successful, but I'll certainly strive to be successful.
Thompson: After you catch that ball on a kickoff, what's going through your mind?
Burton: I'm trying to get to full speed, trying to get to my top gear as fast as possible so that if there is a crease anywhere that I can hit it. I think my vision is very key, and you've got to be tough. It is hard when people are flying at your legs, trying to kill you. So it's toughness, vision and speed.
Keenan Burton catches one of his 25 career touchdown passes.
AP Photo/Jim Lytle
Thompson: You're a pretty tough receiver as well — a guy who's not afraid to lay himself out going across the middle or take the big hit to help his team. Where's that attitude come from? Not all wide receivers seem to do that so willingly.
Burton: It comes from pride. I take pride in what I do. I just want the ball, so if I have to go across the middle, go deep, go short, I just want a chance to get the ball. I think every opportunity thrown to me is key, so I pride myself in trying to make a play on it.
Thompson: You've got great hands when guys are trying to jam you at the line, and you've got good physical size to fight them off when you're trying to get some separation. Some receivers overlook the importance of that skill area.
Burton: That was something that was told to me when I first got to Kentucky by the coach and the receivers who were there. So it's something I take pride in. When I was hurt and was limited as to some of the things I could do during the season, it was hard for me to fight it off. But I found ways around it. I watched more film to see the tendencies of the DB that I would be facing. And I just tried to make it work. Every receiver at this level has to understand that if you can't get off the jam, you won't be successful in college or in pursuing a career at the next level.
Thompson: You've got deep speed, but you're also a good possession receiver. What skills do you have that you think are going to be the most attractive to NFL teams?
Burton: I think my will, my toughness. And my production is key. They can see that I can be a deep receiver, I can be a possession receiver, I can be a slot receiver. They can see that I can do a lot of things, I'm not one-dimensional. And without a question, if I'm asked to do something, it's not going to be a question for me.
Thompson: You were about 6-fooot-1, 200 pounds in college. What do you want to weigh in at when you're at the Combine?
Burton: About 205, 203. Something respectable and something I know I'll run well at.
Thompson: You were an SEC All-Academic and you're active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Tell us more about your commitment in those areas of your life.
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Burton: Academic-wise, I had a tough mom, so there was no question about whether I'd bring home good grades or bad grades (laughs). But it's something I took pride in. I take pride in doing everything right, whether it's practice on the field or going to class. As far as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and my work in the community, when I was growing up I would have loved to have had an athlete who was positive and who was respected talking to me. So I really take advantage of going out and reading to kids, talking to them and speaking at banquets, whatever I can do to help them and show them that not everybody who's an athlete is disrespectful and cocky — and show them somebody who is positive.
Thompson: Is there anyone at the pro level you've kept your eye on and tried to pattern your game after? Or are you pretty much your own guy?
Burton: I'm pretty much my own guy. But I respect so many players from Steve Smith to Chad Johnson to Marvin Harrison, Andre Johnson, Plaxico Burress — all those guys that have had success. I love watching them. And to make the transition to the NFL, I felt it was important to watch the guys who are great. I've seen Jerry Rice play. And guys like that, I like to get film on to see what they do right — how they keep their shoulders square, how they come out of their breaks. I want to see if I can do the same things that they do because they've been so successful.
Thompson: What's it been like to play throw and catch with a quarterback like Andre Woodson during your college career?
Burton: It's been real positive. He's a great athlete, he's got a lot of tools and things he does well that's going to make him a lot of money in the future. He's all business, he's all serious, because he wants to be successful, he wants to win. And that's the kind of guy you want on the football field with you.