The 2010 season wasn’t easy for Kris Burd. On top of enduring the sting of eight losses, the Virginia wide receiver had to fight through an ankle injury that kept him in pain for the season’s final 10 games.
His ability to stay on the field during that span was admirable. His team-leading 58 catches and five touchdown receptions were downright impressive.
“I wasn’t openly thinking about it, but it was in the back of my mind when I was cutting or running or something,” Burd said of the injury. “It would definitely be in the back of my mind.”
Burd hurt a ligament in his right ankle during the team’s lone bye week last September. The injury bothered him the rest of the season but rarely enough to keep him off the practice field. By season’s end, quarterback Marc Verica’s favorite target had made history, combining with senior wideout Dontrelle Inman’s 51 catches and 815 yards to form the most productive receiving tandem the school had seen.
“Kris is a guy that doesn’t like to talk about injuries. He plays through pain, and he wants to be the go-to guy,” coach Mike London said. “He never begged out of a practice, and I’ve never seen him say anything about not being able to continue on in a game.”
With Inman gone and Burd’s ankle fully healed ankle following surgery in February, London and company are licking their chops at the potential lying at the fingertips of their fifth-year senior wideout. Rejoining him on the flanks this season will be redshirt sophomore Tim Smith, whose foot injury last September sidelined him for the rest of the season. Smith’s re-emergence will coincide with increased workloads for returning pass catchers Matt Snyder, Colter Phillips and Paul Freedman.
Even with those guys at his side, Burd knows he likely will be the center of attention for opposing defenses when sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco drops back to pass.
“I’m just trying to be a productive player. That’s pretty much what my mindset is,” Burd said. “If my number’s called, I want to be the guy that they depend on to make the play. I feel like last year was a good season for us stat-wise, but at the end of the day we still were 4-8.”
A string of three losing seasons has created a sense of urgency for Virginia seniors such as Burd and star corner Chase Minnifield. After enrolling at Virginia in the summer of 2007, they watched defensive end Chris Long lead the Cavaliers to a 9-3 regular season record and trip to the Gator Bowl. The impressionable freshmen anticipated careers full of regular- season triumphs and bowl game appearances, but all they have experienced has been repeated disappointment in the form of a 6-18 ACC mark.
Burd and Minnifield have worked in the offseason to help London instill a winning mindset this year. With their final season of eligibility hanging in the balance, the seniors made clear to London’s incoming freshmen that anything short of a bowl game will represent failure.
“Everything you do has to be focused on getting yourself better and focused on winning,” Burd said. “I told [the younger guys] ‘We’re going to a bowl game. Get that in your head, and do what you got to do to make it there. This is my last season, and we’ve got to do it. If you’re not on board, then we just have to leave you behind.”
The magnitude of the season will be particularly profound for Burd, whose inability to participate in spring practice made him value his time on the football field even more.
“It’s a humbling experience knowing that regardless of what your potential is, it can be taken away from you at the snap of a finger,” Burd said. “It just made me cherish things more and think everything through.”