Where Are They Now: Former Rebel Burnette to compete for starting job at Colorado

Brent Burnette directs the Maryville offense during a 2007 playoff game.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Brent Burnette directs the Maryville offense during a 2007 playoff game.

Burnette autographs a hat for a fan following Maryville’s 2007 championship game win over Melrose.

Burnette autographs a hat for a fan following Maryville’s 2007 championship game win over Melrose.

The University of Colorado football team is looking for a fresh start as it enters a new conference, with a new coaching staff calling the shots and possibly a new face under center as former Maryville star Brent Burnette is vying for the starting job at quarterback.

“Colorado is real good situation for me to go into,” Burnette said. “I get to come in with a clean slate and that’s a real good situation for me. They’re coming in with a pro-style offense and told me, ‘We have no starter,’ and when they told me that, I knew it was great situation for me.”

After a history-making 60-0 career at Maryville, including four Class 4A state crowns, Burnette signed with the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders. As a redshirt freshman at MTSU, the 2007 Class 4A Mr. Football was second on the depth chart and earned a start against Mississippi State. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns during the season.

The Blue Raiders changed their offense to a spread option attack that did not allow Burnette to use his best attributes as a passer. That led him to make the decision to transfer to Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz.

“The offensive scheme started gravitating in a different direction, where really the quarterback was a running back,” Burnette said, “and I wanted to be in an offense that was more suitable to my skill set.”

Leaving Murfreesboro was a risky decision for Burnette. He already had a spot on a Division-I roster and there was no guarantee he would get another shot at Bowl Championship Series football after junior college. It wasn’t a done deal he would hold the starting job at Arizona Western.

“There are no guarantees in anything, and I didn’t want to look back and wish I had made another decision,” Burnette said. “I have no regrets, and I think it’s worked out.”

Burnette started the first seven games of the season for the Matadors in 2010, throwing for 1219 yards and 11 touchdowns. An injury would cut his season short forcing him to watch from the sidelines as Arizona Western won the league championship.

Burnette and former Rebel Aaron Douglas were again teammates at Western, Douglas signing with Alabama after his one-year run with the Matadors.

“It was a great experience; at one point we were ranked number one in the nation, and I think I had a great stint in junior college,” Burnette, the 2007 BlueCross Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player, said. “I injured my ribs and that was unfortunate. I had to sit out four games, but now I’m 100 percent healthy and ready to go in spring practice.”

Burnette enrolled at Colorado for the spring semester and will try to earn the top spot on the depth chart during spring practice. Maryville coach George Quarles likes Burnette’s chances.

“Pro-style just fits him,” Quarles said. “He took a chance leaving Middle and going to a junior college. He played a pro-style out there (at Western) and they (the Buffaloes) needed a pros-style quarterback.

“He can throw it. He can drop back and throw it and manage the game.”

That the new Buffalo staff recruited Burnette out of junior college says much about their plans for the former Rebel.

“He’s only got two years left,” Quarles said, “so that’s important to him. They promised him an opportunity and, hopefully, that’s what he’ll get in the spring.”

Burnette can hardly wait.

“They brought me in here and told me I’ll be playing in the type of offense you see on Sundays,” Burnette said. “We don’t have any starters and we’re not going into spring practice with starters. There is a total change in the program in a good way. The coaches, the players, the students and everyone in the area are just excited to start a new season.”

Ultimately, Burnette said he wants to accomplish more in his life than just playing quarterback. After his football career is over, whenever that may be, one profession that piques his interest is becoming a doctor.

“(Medicine) is definitely an interest of mine,” Burnette said. “Being able to help people is something that makes it really attractive.”

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