STILLWATER - It wasn't supposed to be Keith Burns Day in Stillwater on Thursday, but the Big Eight Skywriters' visit to Oklahoma State University came pretty close.
Although the Cowboys have more outstanding individuals than they've had in several years, Burns was the focal point on this fourth stop of media from around the conference.
There are obvious reasons.
He came to the Pokes last season as an All-America junior college player from Navarro. He made 126 tackles, 102 unassisted, had at least 10 in eight games and an amazing 19 at Colorado.
He knocked a couple of ball carriers out of games, and league coaches voted him the defensive newcomer of the year. He's made several pre-season All-America teams, including Playboy , and is ranked the No. 1 inside linebacker by The Sporting News.
There's a story there, and no one went away disappointed.
Giving a position-by-position survey of his team, coach Pat Jones spoke four sentences on Burns: "I think he's got a chance to be as good a linebacker as (Thurman) Thomas was a tailback," he said. "The interesting thing is there are still some raw parts about him. He's a great worker, great youngster, great leader. He's somewhat unlike anything we've had around here in a good while. " After doing a couple of interviews for television cameras, Jones sat down for his customary chat with the print media. The first question concerned quarterback Gary Porter, and whether Jones worried about his off-the-field behavior in light of some problems last year.
The second question was in regard to Burns. In fact, the next 27 questions were in regard to Burns.
"Is that a Big Eight record? " Jones asked later.
The Cowboy coach never seemed to tire of the subject. Here are some of his responses: - "There are certain guys who can be very good players and not necessarily dominate a practice scene. But (Thurman) Thomas and (Barry) Sanders, offensively, (Leslie) O'Neal defensively, you basically could not have a bad practice with guys like that.
They're going to make you have a good practice.
- I thought last year at Michigan, the second game of the season, he was the best player on the field. If you stood there and watched and said, 'Who's the best player on that field,' I'm prejudiced but I think it's Keith Burns. So now I'm thinking, this guy's really got something to him, physically and emotionally.
You're talking one game out of junior college, you go in front of 104,000 or however many people they get up there, and he literally stands out.
- I honestly do believe, if he had entered one of these (four-year) schools as a freshman, he would have been gone now. I think he would be in the NFL. Two more years in the weight room, two more years of repetitions, two more years of spring drills and all these sorts of things, I think he's the type of talent that leaves early.
- There are things we can do to cut him loose. We can run him through gaps, we can play him around different places. He covers so much ground, he'll make big hits when the ball is run away from him. He's going to show up all the way on the other side of the field and jack somebody pretty good.
- I couldn't remember another college linebacker who had burst upon the scene as much as Burns. We've had guys develop and be great players here and other places in the league, but not as somebody who kind of came out of left field and, boom, is an all-league player, most valuable and all those things. " There was more, of course, and there will be more in the future.
But the next time Jones sits through such an interrogation on the subject of Keith Burns, it probably will be with the media from an NFL market. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 548636