Photo by Derrick Mahone
Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell sits with Morgan Burnett Thursday afternoon at North Clayton County High School. Burnett, who plays for the Green Bay Packers, had his high school jersey retired.
By Derrick Mahone
When Cap Burnett used to head off to practice at North Clayton High, younger brother, Morgan, was in tow as the two walked along Riverdale Road. They would occasionally stop at a nearby burger joint to grab a snack before the elder Burnett participated in two-a-day practices.
Morgan always wanted to be like his big brother. He idolized Cap, who went on to star at the University of Georgia, and is now coaching at Jonesboro High.
Thursday afternoon inside the North Clayton gymnasium with Clayton County school system personnel, county officials, former coaches and other special invited guests, the younger Burnett reached another honor bestowed on his brother.
North Clayton retired Morgan's No. 1 jersey. Several years ago, Cap's No. 9 was retired by the school.
"This is quite an honor," Morgan told several members of the school's student body assembled for the 30-minute ceremony. "You feel very blessed and appreciated when you come back home for something like this. This is something I never expected, but I'm extremely proud."
Morgan Burnett graduated from North Clayton in 2007 as one of the school's most decorated athletes. As a sophomore, he quarterbacked the football team to a 10-0 regular season record. He was a member of the 2007 basketball team that reached the Class AAAA final four.
He enjoyed a standout three-year career at nearby Georgia Tech, helping the Yellow Jackets win the 2009 ACC championship before entering the NFL draft.
In 2010, he was a third round selection of the Green Bay Packers, which won this year's Super Bowl.
"It is special to get to the Super Bowl in your first year," said Burnett, who was on injured reserve most of the season. "Some guys play an entire career and never get there. I feel extremely blessed."
Said Cap: "I'm real proud of him. This is his moment and he earned it. I knew this day was coming."
Morgan Burnett's former high school coach Don Shockley said that coaching Burnett was special. He was a four-star recruit with several college offers. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder was an all-state performer for three years as a quarterback and defensive back.
"The coaches and I used to always say in our film meetings that we're glad he is on our team," Shockley said. "We knew he was special, even when he was in the seventh-grade. I knew if he could come close to being half as good as Cap, he was something special. He was a game changer."
Now, he is making a name for himself in the NFL with the storied Green Bay Packers. Before sustaining a knee injury, Burnett started four games, including an interception against the Buffalo Bills. In four starts, he recorded 14 tackles and a pass deflection in addition to the interception.
"He is just three years removed from eating lunch in a high school cafeteria," said Kevin Conner, Morgan's agent at Universal Sports Entertainment. "He is now performing on the biggest stage in football. The reason is that he is accountable, reliable and dependable. He has a humble attitude."
Morgan's rise to the NFL didn't come as a surprise to Shockley.
"I told the Georgia Tech coaches when they signed him that he would be there only three years," Shockley said.
But he is expected to last a lot longer in the NFL.
"I learned a lot last season, just sitting in the meeting rooms," Burnett said. "You take a lot of mental notes. It is awesome being in the Green Bay organization. When you first walk out on that field, you are sort of shell-shocked. It is a very special place."
Burnett said the memories of attending school and playing for the Eagles was also a special time. In his closing remarks after receiving his home and away jersey, he challenged the student body to succeed.
"Let this be a motivation to all of you," Burnett said. "I want you to be better than me. Keep your heads up, and dream big."