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Ex-Cat Burton creates scholarship for aspiring youth

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3.jpgKeenan Burton "got it" when he was at Kentucky catching touchdown passes. He understood that even in the most fortunate of positions, one can't forget their roots and what it took to get there.

Even two years of fame and fortune in professional football hasn't altered that understanding for Burton, now two full years immersed in the life of being a successful wide receiver for the rebuilding St. Louis Rams.

Despite a rigorous offseason of training and rehabilitation to repair a season-ending knee injury, Burton recently created the inaugural Burton-Taylor College & Academic Scholarship to recognize deserving high school students with monetary support towards their pursuit of postsecondary education.

Burton announced the scholarship during a his inaugural Faith, Family and Football Education Awareness Tour in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., a weekend tour to promote education awareness to youth in the Derby City.

"We came up with the Burton-Taylor scholarship to try to do something that doesn't have anything to do with athletics," Burton said by phone Friday. "I feel like the most important thing for kids today is academics and I'm trying to be positive in that sense to help bring education awareness to the state and city that I'm from."

Burton said he has long been inspired to promote the importance of academics and give back to the community. After talking with fellow NFL player and Louisville native Michael Bush, Burton decided he wanted to do more than his normal charity around Christmas for families in need of assistance. The answer was teaming up with his former rival at the University of Louisville for an annual scholarship.

"If it wasn't for my family I wouldn't be where I'm at," Burton said. "Academics are important not only because it paved the way for my athletics, but just in the sense that I could have very well never played a day of football in my life and I would still need to find a job. In today's age, if you don't have a degree, it's practically going to be impossible for you to find a job."

Burton, from his days at duPont Manual High School in Louisville, to college football at UK and now in the NFL with the Rams, has always epitomized character and professionalism. As a cornerstone of the 2008 graduating class, Burton played one of the key roles in the revival of the Kentucky football program and its current four-year bowl run.

But Burton said the introduction of the Burton-Taylor scholarship is the latest part in a maturation process that started at UK. The fourth all-time leading receiver in UK football history said he has learned not to take his blessings for granted.

"That's the most important thing," Burton said. "If you don't give back to where you come from, then I think you are a lost cause. People that know you where you come from understand that it's a hard road to making it to where you. At the same time, you want those same people to be able to reach out and touch you."

Honoring Edward Burton and Gladys Taylor, the parents of Burton, the Burton-Taylor College & Academic Scholarship aims to empower youth in their educational attainment and who have overcome socio-economic and family obstacles towards success and academic achievement against all odds.

Burton said he is donating $1,500 annually for the scholarship and said Bush has agreed to match whatever he donates. Because additional parties have expressed interest in joining the scholarship initiative, the amount of the scholarship has not been finalized.

In its first installation, only students actively participating in the youth empowerment organization 1+1=U, Inc. will be eligible for the award. Beginning in 2011, students from any high school may qualify. Students planning to attend the University of Kentucky or St. Louis University are encouraged to apply.

Applicants interested in applying for scholarship may visit the website of Burton's organization at www.1plus1equalsu.com for more details. The deadline for the inaugural scholarship is May 19. The award will be announced in June.

Burton, who was the leading receiver on the Rams at the time of his season-ending patellar tendon injury, said he is ahead of schedule in his return to football and plans to participate in the Rams' offseason team training.

"I'm close," Burton said. "I'm way ahead of schedule. They said it was going to be an eight-to-10-month injury. I'm darn near 100 percent in six months, so I'm ready."  

Burton said he still keeps tabs on the UK football team and his former teammates and looks forward to seeing the transition of the program from former coach Rich Brooks to current coach Joker Phillips.

"I'm excited for Coach Phillips," Burton said. "I think he's the right man for the job. Coach Brooks was an outstanding person and I loved him like he was my father. I'm glad that he could put Coach Phillips in the position that he's in. I'm just excited to watch Big Blue Nation this year and watch Randall (Cobb) and Mike (Hartline) and Derrick (Locke) and all those guys and see them go out there and do what they need to do."

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