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November 19, 2009

Burney basks in week of celebrity

Kendric Burney has enjoyed an interesting few days since his stellar three interception performance last Saturday, which helped North Carolina (7-3, 3-3 ACC) upset Miami in Kenan Stadium.

"It's been crazy, because people that you normally don't talk to will call you and try to get in good with you, but it's been fun," Burney said.

Burney's three pick effort, which brought him up to the team lead with four, included a 77-yarder he returned for a touchdown and another that turned into a touchdown from Melvin Williams.

The veteran UNC cornerback gave one more crack at trying to explain the crazy play that was essential in the win over the Hurricanes.

"I've seen it, and it looks different from what I had in mind, you know," Burney said. "That whole play was all crazy, because at the time I wanted to give it to Melvin, but when I saw that he was in front of me I kind of bobbled it. But then it was too late for me for me to control it back, so I just slapped it and he was in front of me."

"It was a fumble but we got the call and everything worked out perfectly," he added. "It was intended to give it to him, because he was behind me at first."

"We work on that in practice, and the play before that when I caught the interception he (Williams) asked me why I didn't pitch it to him then, so I told him next time I get it I was going to give it to him, and when I gave it to him he kind of just stood there for a couple of seconds, but everything worked out well."

Although Burney didn't eat anything differently or deviate from a typical approach to gameday last Saturday morning, he did mention that a unique sleeping arrangement the night before could have been, for a superstitious-natured soul, a positive step.

"I actually did stay with Charles Brown---his roommate was Jordan Hemby and he was sick---so I stayed with C.B. that night," Burney said. "I might have to change my roommates up and stay with C.B. from now on."

In all, Burney's 170 receiving yards set a new single-game Atlantic Coast Conference record, earning him the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honor along with ACC defensive player of the week honors.

"I'm not the type that brags and boasts and stuff like that, but it's definitely been a good feeling to have one of the best games of my career, and things have been popping up that have been good, but I know we've still got a lot of work to do and I know my teammates need me to get focused," said Burney.

Burney, one of the lynchpins of arguably the ACC's best defense, says one of the biggest keys for the unit is that they're playing relaxed and just going out and enjoying playing the game.

"As a defense we've played just phenomenal football, from getting pressure to interceptions in the bag. It's just all worked out for us," he said. "It's just going back to having fun. As long as we keep having fun, the plays will come for me."

It's going to be pretty darn difficult for Burney to top what he did last weekend against the Hurricanes, but being the fun-loving yet competitive player that he is, he's trying to set an even higher standard this weekend while keeping reality in mind as well.

"With me being the crazy person I am, I'm going to say I want four or five picks---that's just me---but realistically, I'll just be myself like always, the crazy little guy running, messing with the big guys every now and then and running behind our big guys," he said.

Along with being tied for fourth on the team with 42 total tackles (28 solo), Burney is currently tied with several UNC players for second on the team with three pass breakups, and he, along with five others, has a fumble recovery.

Burney credits some of North Carolina's recent success getting turnovers to a little game of competitive 'What can you do?' in practice?

Head coach Butch Davis has put Burney and the other UNC secondary members up to the test in practice by challenging them with a 'number' to see how many balls they can deflect, break up, or intercept.

"As a defense, he (Davis) will ask and see if we can get our hands on the ball 10 times a day, and I'll be like, 'We'll go for 20.' Just set it real high," Burney said. "We push the boys to go out there and get their hands on as many balls as possible in practice."

"Ever since we started that the turnovers have definitely been coming. We've emphasized that in practice and it's definitely been pushing over to the game," he added.

Another thing that's helped Burney in particular is his intense dedication to the sport of football, which is evident given the undivided attention he's now giving to practicing, playing, and studying film.

In the spring of 2008, prior to his redshirt sophomore season for UNC, Burney had to make up the difficult choice to give up his childhood love of baseball, which had helped him earn North Carolina Male Athlete of the Year in 2006, his senior year at Jacksonville (N.C.) Southwest Onslow.

Burney admits that baseball was a big reason why he came to UNC.

"At the time I gave up baseball I thought I did the wrong thing, to tell you the truth, Burney said. "The reason why I came here was baseball. But now that you look at it, you've got to let things calm down before you can analyze things, and it's definitely worked out for the best."

"My career has pretty much taken off ever since I have transformed pretty much straight to football, so it's been a plus and I'm grateful that it definitely worked out," he added.

Burney indicated that he has fostered a strong relationship since Coach Davis since he had to make a decision whether he was going to play baseball or football in college.

"Me and Coach Davis, since that incident of football-baseball, we've probably been the closest that I've ever been to a football coach, and everything has pretty much worked out perfectly," Burney said. "We joke around during practice and outside of practice, and it's all fun."

"It helps being here for my fourth year and being with him three years. We've learned each other pretty well and we definitely get along well," he added.

"It helps out because you're allowed to communicate. Some things that he and I talk about, he wouldn't have with another teammate. He (Davis) knew exactly what he was talking about, just watching film and being able to get in the weight room, and just seeing things before it happens," Burney continued.

"Giving up baseball was hard but it definitely paid off in the end."

Despite not being an official member of the Diamond Heels, Burney mentioned that he still occasionally takes some batting practice and batting cage swings with the UNC team, and that head coach Mike Fox was tremendously helpful to him through the whole transition over to playing football exclusively.

"The thing that really helped me through that whole process was Coach Fox and the staff and the players," Burney said. "They still stood by me. I can go over there and take some cuts if I still want to."

"No matter what I'm still part of that baseball program, so that helps me out a lot," he added.






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