The University of Miami football team sorely needed uplifting news after a few days of misery.
And that’s exactly what they got Wednesday when Hurricanes junior cornerback Artie Burns showed up at the complex, changed into his gear and ran onto Greentree Field to prepare for a road game against No. 22 Duke – a game no one was sure he’d make after his 44-year-old mother, Dana Smith, died of a heart attack early Tuesday.
“Saturday will be my greatest effort,’’ Burns tweeted Tuesday night, “cause that’s what you would want.’’
Interim coach Larry Scott and his players were inspired by Burns’ presence.
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“He was out there and you felt him,’’ Scott said. “Obviously you can tell that he’s carrying some things, but the way he competed you wouldn’t have known it. When it was his rep, you wouldn’t have known it. He was really tied in tight to his details. I think a little bit of it allowed him to focus. He was dialed in. He had a good day.”
Burns, 20, has had a lot of good days. He leads UM (4-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) and is tied for third nationally with five interceptions this season. His five picks are the most in one season by a Hurricane since Sean Taylor had 10 in 2003.
Duke (6-1, 3-0) is ranked 56th in passing offense, averaging 237.6 aerial yards a game.
Hurricane fans showed their support for Burns en masse Tuesday, when, in only six hours, they contributed $40,000 to a GoFundMe campaign initiated by the university in consultation with the NCAA. Per a note posted on the Internet by the university, UM “paused the campaign’’ for now because “per NCAA bylaws, funds raised in excess of the support needed for funeral, medical and related expenses will be donated to a charitable cause.
“In the event that such expenses exceed $40,000,’’ UM wrote, “the campaign will re-open …’’
Canes wide receiver Herb Waters was impressed with the fast and furious outpouring of generosity.
“I was like, ‘Man!’ ’’ Waters said. “I even donated because I know how things are. I felt sorry for him and I donated for him out of my pocket.”
Scott said the fundraising effort gave him “goosebumps’’ and had to have uplifted Burns, who has two younger brothers. All three have been raised by their mother, but have grandparents who will care for them.
“That could have been part of the reason why he decided to show back up today,’’ the coach said of the overwhelming community support. “That could have been part of the reason why he said, ‘You know, I’m going to go compete with my brothers. We have an opportunity still ahead of us and I need to be with my family, I need to be with our team.’”
And the team needed to be with him.
“It brought everybody up knowing he’s going through his problems but he’s still wanting to be here with the team and be here with his band of brothers,’’ Waters said. “I seen him all smiles today. I seen a smile on his face today, and that’s a good thing. We’ve got his back.’’
He was out there and you felt him. Obviously you can tell that he’s carrying some things, but the way he competed you wouldn’t have known it. He was dialed in. He had a good day.
UM interim coach
Safety Rayshawn Jenkins called Burns “a strong individual.’’
“It was just yesterday and he came back out here today,’’ Jenkins said. “We definitely feel his pain so it definitely makes us want to play for him and what he’s going through.
“We told him we have his back and anytime he ever needs something he can always come to us because we’re his brothers.’’
Tight end Stan Dobard said the Canes “put a smile on [Burns’] face just to be around us. His mother was a real big Canes fan and we all knew her very well so we’ll be playing for her Saturday.”
Scott expects no less of his players, whose responsibilities, he said, include holding Burns “to a standard of being great, because that’s what Artie wants to be.
“He knows that his mom wouldn’t want it any other way. So he’s here being Artie.’’