April 4, 2011

Happy to be healthy

The fact he's been seeing time with the first unit at offensive guard might seem a big deal to a youngster like redshirt sophomore Chris Burnette, who is finally healthy after being plagued with injuries last fall.

However, considering what all he went through last fall, just being on the field is all he is worried about right now.

"I always try to pay attention, stay on my toes and work as hard as I can. That's the main thing," Burnette said. "I try to put out all the effort so I can grade out as well as I can. That's important, but as long as I'm putting out 100 percent effort, that's the biggest thing for me."

At 6-foot-2 and listed at 313 pounds, Burnette certainly spent more time in the training room than the practice field after redshirting as a freshman in 2009.

Toward the end of fall camp, Burnette missed the next two weeks with a concussion, and no sooner did he get cleared from that, he tore his MCL, an injury which knocked him out the rest of the year.

"It was something that was serious, but not serious enough where it needed surgery, so it was kind of a waiting game for it to heal and get the flexibility and the strength back," Burnette said. "It was crazy, to say the least, but I know it happened for a reason."

Besides guard, Burnette is also working as the backup center to starter Ben Jones while Dallas Lee recovers from asthma-like symptoms.

"My preference is guard because I played there and a little tackle in high school; center was brand new for me when I got here; but it's football; I love it," said Burnette, a former four-star performer by Rivals.com.

Burnette has already made a name for himself off the field for Georgia, including an Athletic Director's Honor Roll distinction his first two years in Athens.

While obviously proud of his academic achievements, Burnette's drive to achieve on the field burns just as strong. Does one feed off the other?

"It helps, but at times that mental aspect can only get you so far," Burnette said. "I don't mean mentally knowing stuff, but the toughness, the way you go about things."

Burnette says that mental toughness is something he and his offensive line contemporaries - Brent Benedict, Lee, A.J. Harmon, Kolton Houston, Kenarious Gates and Austin Long talk about all the time.

"We know we've kind of got to take the reins for the future. Everyone, even guys like A.J. Harmon, we feel it's up to us to bond together and work hard because if we sit back, the year after next, we may get passed by," he said. "It's up to us to stick together and encourage each other to stay sharp and do our best."

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