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UK's Burns can talk as well as he plays

August 26, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON -- Even if Kentucky wasn't playing rival Louisville in its season-opening game, Vincent Burns would be ready to talk about the season.

"If you are going to play, you ought to have a little fun," said Burns, a junior defensive end at Kentucky. "I do like to have fun and I do like to talk. You always want to keep that excitement."

Teammates Antonio Hall and Jeremy Caudill insist Burns is the "best trash talker" they've been around, and he's as apt to needle a teammate in practice as he is an opponent during a game.

Burns still remembers his high school days in Georgia when older players would "talk trash" to him in practice to help motivate him.

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"In a game, you have to be focused. You can't just be hollering," Burns said. "In practice, you can talk more and do little things. I holler at a lot of guys in practice, but it is just about making them better. It's nothing against them."

Teammates say they sometimes are surprised at the humor in Burns' trash talking. He insists it is not premeditated.

"It just comes. It's nothing I sit home and prepare or think about," he said. "I just say it. It is a way to relax the other guys. I don't mind keeping the guys laughing."

He thinks 3-4 alignment will be no laughing matter

He doesn't think opponents, including Louisville, will find UK's new 3-4 defensive alignment that new coordinator Mike Archer has installed to be any laughing matter. Burns and Caudill both started in UK's 4-2 alignment last year and will man the end positions this season with Ellery Moore starting in the middle.

"The system won't hurt or help me," said Burns. "It doesn't matter about the system. It just matters about the player being willing to listen, learn and get better. Maybe some people think the new defense will take away from my aggressiveness, but I think it will let me make more plays."

Burns liked the alignment Kentucky used last year. He earned all-Southeastern Conference second team honors when he started 12 games and led the defensive line with 65 tackles, including a team-high 14.5 tackles for loss. He also had all three of his quarterback sacks in the final four games.

The switch to a 3-4 defense is no problem for Burns.

"There is a lot more communication involved in the new defense," Burns said. "I will have my times when I make plays, but there also will be plenty of times when I will have to be disciplined and help my teammates make plays. As long as I keep going hard, I will make a ton of plays. It's just a matter of my desire to get to the ball."

No one at Kentucky has questioned Burns' desire since he transferred from Northern Arizona so he would be closer to his family in Georgia. His intensity on the scout team during the 2001 season made it clear he would be a solid player in 2002. Now he wants this season to be even better.

A versatile athlete

He's always been a versatile athlete. He played power forward on his high school basketball team. He competed in the shot put in track. In football, he was most valuable player of the Class AAAA state championship game his senior year.

"My dad and uncle were great football players at my high school," Burns said. "My dad probably was one of the best defensive linemen ever to play there. Football was a family tradition. I just love being around the game, even if it is just watching. I want to play football as long as the Lord gives me the strength."

One mistake he won't make is not graduating. He wants to be able to tell his 3-year-old daughter that he not only played football at Kentucky, but that he also graduated.

"She keeps me motivated to play. I play for her and my family," Burns said. "I only get to see her during the breaks when football is going on, but I know what I am here for. I am not here just for Sweet Pea to go to college and have fun. I am here to represent my family and daughter.

"When she turns 18, I want to be able to tell here that her dad went to college, graduated and that she should, too. That's important to me and helps keep me focused and motivated."

Not that he needs any extra motivation this week.

"For us, there's no game bigger than this one. You can't win them all if you don't win your first one," Burns said. "We have some high goals as a team and to reach them, we know we've got to win this game."|None***



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