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Sunday, March 4, 2012
Chance for redemption for Burnett

By Pedro Moura

USC cornerback Tony Burnett isn't happy with the way he played last year.

He isn't happy with how he got beat time and time again as the Trojans' No. 2 corner early in the season, and he isn't happy with his decision to play through an ankle injury that was hindering him physically even as he attempted to prevent it from hindering him mentally.

Now he's healthy, though. And now he knows what he wants to do in 2012, once he finishes his track career off this spring and the stakes get raised exponentially with the Trojans' national-championship chase.

"I want redemption," Burnett has said over and over this winter. "I had an OK season last year -- not what I wanted. But I'm just looking for redemption, ready to redeem myself."

Why so much talk about redemption? Because it's needed. Burnett was called out often by fans last season as the weak link on the USC defense, and he was aware of the criticism.

"I'm just trying to be a contributor, not that guy that everybody looks at and says, 'Oh, if only he had did better...'" he says now. "I don't want to be that guy this year."

Burnett, a Watts native, came into USC as a track-only athlete out of junior college and then walked on to the football team after a chance encounter on campus with recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron a couple years back.

He burst onto the scene at the end of the 2010 season and earned himself a football scholarship last year, led the race for the No. 2 cornerback spot last spring and then started the 2011 season as the nickel corner.

That was all training for this year, he says. That was all training for a run that can mean something this time.

"This is that year," he said. "Last year and the year before, it was, 'Let's do it for each other, let's play for fun.' Now that we can actually go out and be a representative on a national stage."

On Saturday, Burnett competed in the Beach Classic at Cerritos College and won the triple jump for the second consecutive weekend. He also ran the anchor leg on the 4x100-meter relay with football teammates Marqise Lee, D.J. Morgan and Nickell Robey, but the foursome's run didn't qualify.

They finished third last weekend in the Rossi Relays at Claremont McKenna.