With fewer obstacles in his way, Glenbard South's Burnett shows the way on and off the field
As a pair of defenders closed in on Glenbard South's Trevor Burnett two weeks ago, coach Ryan Crissey had one thought.
"Oh, boy. Tackle for loss."
Crissey should have known better, having coached the dynamic running back since he was a freshman. These obstacles were nothing compared to some of the trying family circumstances Burnett endured -- circumstances that might demoralize many, but in this case created a vocal, thoughtful and respected leader thanks to a loving family and faith in God.
So, tackle for loss? Not quite.
A second later, Crissey is shaking his head in disbelief as Burnett channeled his inner Barry Sanders by planting a foot, splitting a seam and racing 20 yards downfield.
"I've never coached a better athlete, but I've also never coached a better person," said Crissey, whose 2-0 squad plays Friday at South Elgin. "He's obviously going to leave a legacy athletically, but to replace him as a leader is going to be darn near impossible."
A tough path
There's no denying Burnett's incredible talents. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound do-it-all tailback averaged 9.75 yards per carry last spring, runs the 40 in 4.39 seconds and is mulling nine scholarship offers.
He's also a member of Glenbard South's Link Crew, a club that invites the top academic kids who have a profound impact on the school community.
"And he's maybe at the top," Crissey said.
Which is incredible when one considers everything Burnett and his siblings endured after their dad, Ray Burnett, was laid off years ago.
"There were times we didn't eat and times we didn't sleep a lot," said Trevor, who has four brothers and a sister. "In sixth grade I had to wear the same shoes for two years, even if they were busted. Just had to sacrifice and do what you can to keep a home or get food."
Ray, who has worked as a school bus driver and is employed by Glenbard South, also sings for God's Posse, a Chicago-based Gospel group that has traveled the country.
Ray admitted there were tough times, but he never lost sight of his top priority.
"I was a young father, so I made mistakes," said Ray, who played football, basketball and ran track at Larkin High School in Elgin. "I miscalculated things. But I never swayed away from my kids. I've always stuck in their lives, told them everything's going to be all right. ...
"Still to this day I do all I can for all my kids. I maybe can't buy them all they want, but I make sure I take care of all their needs."
Ray has three children from his first marriage and one with his wife of 12 years, Marie Steward-Burnett. She also has two children from a previous relationship. Trevor's birth mother, Latasha Williams -- whom he calls on every game day -- lives in Chicago.
To Ray, it's one big family.
"There's no 'step,' " he said, meaning stepkids. "Her kids are my kids, just like my kids are her kids. That's just how we were raised."
Trevor's favorite NFL team is the New Orleans Saints and his favorite player is RB Alvin Kamara. But probe a little deeper and he'll start rattling off old-school names like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
"I told him to watch their style," Ray said. "Take what they do and impart it on your gift that God gave you. That's basically what he's doing. He's really a joy to watch. The sky's the limit."
Trevor ran for 165 yards on 28 carries and scored 2 touchdowns in Glenbard South's season-opening 28-0 victory over Bartlett. Last week, he carried just six times in a 56-0 win over West Chicago, although he did provide a highlight-reel moment as teammates were yelling to stay away from the ball on a punt.
"We're calling 'poison' and he just decides out of nowhere he's just gonna grab it," said teammate Dominic D'Ambra. "And he ends up scoring."
This kind of unpredictability -- whether on a punt return or a play that seems to be going nowhere -- is what makes Trevor so dangerous and why he's being recruited by Army, Iowa, Kent State, Indiana State and Northern Iowa.
"He's really the lifeblood of our offense," Crissey said. "But he also provides us with opportunities to spread the ball around because people have to key on him."
Leader of the pack
Trevor is so fast, elusive and dynamic he's been playing varsity four years. He affects the game in myriad ways, and he's positively impacting classmates' lives every day.
"Just like a lot of places in DuPage County, it's haves and have nots," Crissey said. "Kids have always extended their homes to them. Whether it's a pregame meal or you need a pair of socks, it doesn't matter. ... People step up because they know this family would only ask if they really needed it. They're just awesome people.
"And the beautiful part is the kid pays it forward in a lot of ways. His ability to mentor young kids is uncanny. He has an eye for finding people in need and he just gets to work."
An example is D'Ambra, who thought a little too much of himself as a freshman.
"Trevor taught me how to be humble," D'Ambra said. "I was rough my freshman year -- ups and downs. He was one guy who came out of his way to make sure I was doing all right. ... He's been my best friend ever since."
Trevor credits many family members for helping pave a smoother path. The long list includes his parents, siblings, an aunt, a cousin who bought him cleats, his grandparents and his great grandma, to whom he pays tribute by wearing a shirt under his uniform that says: "I score every touchdown for Fatma."
But at the top of the list is God. Trevor prays on every game day -- before and after school.
"Trevor's a great kid," Ray said. "I've always taught him to remain humble. If you keep God first, remain humble and put in the work, God will do the rest."
A lesson Trevor has learned well -- and one he's passing on. Over and over again.
By the numbersTrevor Burnett's stats the past two seasons2021 (Spring: 6 games)
• 76 carries for 741 yards (9.75 average)
• 8 total touchdowns
2020 (10 games)
• 50 carries for 392 yards (7.84 average)
• 30 receptions for 501 yards (17.0 average)
• 6 total touchdowns
Note: Spring season had 6 games due to COVID-19