By JEFFREY McMURRAY
Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - The last time Kentucky receiver Keenan
Burton talked to Michael Bush by phone, Bush was complaining that
his new Oakland Raider teammates had just sent him to buy fried
"I said, 'Why are you upset?"' Burton said. "'You've got the
money to spend. What's a $5 meal from Popeyes?"'
Burton easily could have followed his best friend to the
guaranteed wealth of an NFL player. Instead, he decided to delay
his pro dreams for a year to return to Kentucky, pursue his
journalism degree, up his draft stock and help the Wildcats (2-0)
build on last year's first bowl victory in 22 years.
Oh, and then there is that other motivation that will come only
once this season - Saturday against No. 9 Louisville (2-0), which
plays its home games at Papa John's Stadium "just steps," in
Burton's words, from where he grew up.
Burton always wanted to be a Cardinal, and if he'd converted to
defensive back, he might have realized those dreams. But after
gaining high school fame as an option quarterback, he saw himself
as an offensive player - likely a receiver - at the next level.
Kentucky saw him that way too.
That's how two close high school friends ended up not only on
separate teams, but arch rivals.
Bush is gone now, but the matchup certainly hasn't lost any
luster for Burton. In fact, because of a medical redshirt he
received his sophomore season, he's in the unique position of
facing the Cardinals for a fifth consecutive year.
Burton's career record against them: 0-4.
"Everybody else had four shots," Burton said. "I get five.
Maybe God is telling me something: It's time to get it right."
Burton was always considered an elite talent, but until last
season, freak injuries had limited him.
After a promising freshman year in 2003, he suffered a hairline
fracture in his wrist during preseason practices as a sophomore. He
played the Louisville game hurt, but eventually decided to
Trying his sophomore season again, he broke a foot and was
sidelined four games.
Bush talked him through both of those injuries, but last year
the tables were turned when Bush broke his leg against Kentucky in
Bush decided to turn pro anyway, slipping to the fourth round of
the draft, and he currently is on the Raiders' injury list.
It seems ironic, Burton acknowledges, that he's healthy and
still in college while his friend is injured and in the pros. But
conditions dictated both decisions.
"I think he came to his decision because of his age and because
of the good young backs coming through this year," Burton said.
"My decision was different because I had been injured and I wanted
to show people, fans and scouts that I could have another
Finally healthy, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver led Kentucky
in touchdowns (13), receptions (77), receiving yards (1,036) and
all-purpose yards (1,845). He also helped bring along Dicky Lyons
Jr. as an effective No. 2 option for quarterback Andre Woodson.
The vertical passing game, perceived as Kentucky's biggest
weakness just over a year ago, now is its biggest strength.
"We are going to have our hands full, but we are ready for
it," Louisville cornerback Bobby Buchanan said of the Wildcats'
Burton's coaches say they don't notice any different approach to
his preparations this week, despite all the national attention
focused on the rivalry.
"Keenan gets driven by every game," offensive coordinator
Joker Phillips said. "He's gotten up for both of the two games
we've played, and he'll be jacked up for this one, too, just
because it's our next game."
But the players, especially the seniors, know better than the
idea this is just another game for the star receiver. Eric Scott, a
center also in his fifth year with Kentucky, said the chance to
continue this rivalry was one of the main reasons Burton is still a
"It has a lot to do with what Keenan wanted," Scott said.
"He's a very loyal person, and this team right now is the most
important thing in his life. Some guys, they know they can make all
this money, but Keenan's not that type of person. He won't put
money before his family, and we're his family."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)