It’s not the typical father-son relationship.
He can’t hug him, he can’t see him and he can talk to him only by phone. But for the better part of his childhood, Artie Burns has tried to make the best of his dad being locked up in prison.
“Sometimes when something has gone wrong I’ll be mad at him because he’s not here, not around. But then I calm down and say ‘That’s just life,’ ” said Burns, a senior at Miami Northwestern who has committed to play football and run track at the University of Miami.
“We still talk every couple days about life, track, football, everything that’s going on. I send him pictures and the articles I come out in. I told my mom the first thing I’m going to do if I make it to the [NFL] is buy her a house and bail [my dad] out.”
According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Artie Tyrone Burns Sr. began serving a 25-year sentence for cocaine trafficking on Feb. 28, 2006. He’s scheduled to be released Feb. 17, 2028, according to his inmate record. Artie Jr., who turns 18 in May, would be 32 then.
But the hope, Dana Smith said, is that Artie Sr. will be out not long after the eldest of their three children is done with his career as a Hurricane. Maybe even in time to see Artie’s younger brothers, 13-year-old Thomas and 10-year-old Jordan — also football and track stars — maybe follow him to UM.
“When their dad went away, it was obviously tough,” said Smith, a 41-year-old service coordinator for a fire-extinguisher company. “But we’ve stuck together with a lot of love and support from our family.
“Artie reacted negatively in the beginning. He was very closed off, didn’t speak to anyone. But he’s gotten through it, become the man of the house. Now that he’s driving, he takes his brothers to practice, does homework with them. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when he finally goes to college. We’re all going to miss him.”
Burns, who has a 2.6 grade-point average, and wants to major in business at Miami, will be missed at home. But UM can’t wait to take him in. Next Wednesday, the 6-1, 183-pound defensive back and the nation’s fastest high school hurdler will make his Hurricanes pledge official when he signs a national letter of intent in front of friends and family at a ceremony inside Northwestern’s auditorium.
He’ll be the first Bull to sign with UM since Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Tommy Streeter, Brandon Washington and host of other Northwestern standouts who played on the 2007 national championship team decided to go to Miami.
And he can’t wait to get there.
“My dad was a huge UM fan, and I always watched them play, so I’ve always had some of UM in me,” said Burns, a Rivals.com four-star recruit considered the 15th-best cornerback in the country.
“Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, those were two of my favorite players,” Burns said. “Seeing guys like [safety] Deon Bush and [cornerback] Tracy Howard come in and play right away as a freshman, I feel like I can come and do the same thing. Me [and Miami Southridge defensive back Jamal Carter] are excited to be coming in together. We feel like we can all be a great secondary together.”
Carter, the only other South Florida player among the 13 commitments in UM’s class, likely will end up playing safety, according to Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services. Burns said UM coaches have told him he will start out at cornerback.
“Artie was very raw coming into his senior year, but he definitely did some good things and improved to the point where he’s probably able to play right away at Miami,” Fishbein said. “Carter is one of those kids who is like an extra linebacker who can drop back in coverage and be physical. Two very good additions for Miami at a position of need.”
Burns, who posted the nation’s fastest high school times in the hurdles last season (13.35 seconds in the 110 meters; 36.06 seconds in the 300 meters), is also dangerous on special teams. In addition to his 83 tackles, four interceptions and four sacks as a senior, he ran back two kicks for scores. He said UM coaches have talked about putting him back on kickoff returns alongside Duke Johnson.
“When you hit somebody hard, you make ESPN. But a pick or a return, there’s just something about having the ball in your hands that just makes you feel good,” Burns said. “Getting in the end zone with the ball is the best feeling in the world. I hope I get to do that a lot at Miami.”
Before stepping on UM’s campus this summer, Burns said he has a few more goals — winning a couple more state titles in track and seeing his dad. It will be the first time they have seen each other face to face since Burns was in the second grade.
“The boys have a very busy schedule with track and football, but I know they’re looking forward to seeing their dad,” Smith said. “It’s going to be very emotional for him. But I know he’s looking forward to it.”