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Burns plays dual role

AHOSKIE – Not every athlete strives to be the quarterback who throws for 100-plus yards per game, the All-Star shooter who scores 30 points per game or the power-hitter fourth batter in the lineup.

Some athletes strive to be the role players, like the nose guard, or the rebounder and so on. It is those athletes who, despite often receiving little credit for their efforts, make the biggest impact.

“Without the offensive line, the running backs are going nowhere,” said Richard Burns, a senior football and soccer player at Hertford County High School.

Burns is a leader in every meaning of the word and has learned some valuable things from personal experience both on and off the field.

When Burns was age three, his home in Wilson was struck by lightning and caught fire, forcing his family to relocate to a new residence. His new home soon became Ahoskie, where he has spent the majority of his life.

“Growing up in rural North Carolina has been enjoyable,” Burns said. “I like how everybody knows everybody and you can always rely on people to support you.”

Burns also has a close relationship with his parents, who he says have guided him to succeed in sports.

When he was only two years old, Burns began playing soccer and has been playing the game since. He now plays mid-field and forward for the Hertford County Bears, but says his positions are not limited to offense.

“I enjoy scoring goals, but I’m an all-around player,” Burns insisted. “I will play wherever my team needs me to play.”

His commitment to his team excelling rather than his personal ambitions has been rewarding, too. He scored only one goal in his freshman season, but improved to 16 goals in his sophomore season and nine goals in his junior season. He has also had two four-goal games in his career, both against Perquimans County High School.

When asked about his most memorable moment in his soccer career, Burns mentioned the win against the Lawrence Academy Warriors in his sophomore season. It was a game early in the Fall 2006 season, and the Bears had not won a game in quite a while, extending as far back as the Fall 2005 season; nonetheless, the Bears were able to get the win, snapping an extensive losing streak.

“It was really special for the team to break the streak,” he said. “Our team was already close, but I think the bond grew when we were able to finally get a win.”

Burns also added that the team celebrated at a nearby restaurant for their accomplishments.

Burns’ soccer resume, impressive as it is, is not all he has to show for his sports career. Burns is also the starting kicker for the Hertford County Bears football team, who are entering their second season under the guidance of head coach Diego Hasty.

Greg Watford, who was coach of the Bears at the time Burns joined the team, actually contacted Burns to ask him to be the team’s kicker in his freshman year of high school.

“Coach Watford and I really bonded well once he asked me to join the team,” the senior place kicker said. “He put a big emphasis on special teams.”

Burns went on to say that he believed that Hasty, too, felt the same about the impact special teams could have on the outcome of games.

“Richard is a very valuable contributor to our team,” said Hasty. “Special teams are just as important as offense and defense.”

Hasty also noted that Burns was a “hard-working young man” and has a bright future in kicking.

Burns was not the starting kicker in his first and second year of high school, but did earn the position in his junior year. He missed two field goals early as the Bears’ starting kicker, but did go on to kick a 36-yard field goal against rival Bertie High School at the end of the season.

The 36-yarder, despite it being an excellent addition to his own stat sheet, was not enough for Burns, as the Bears lost to rival Bertie 34-3.

“We lost, so what I did means nothing,” he said. “It’s all about teamwork, and knowing how to win, lose, and do everything as a team.”

It is no doubt that Richard Burns is a team player, always filling the role his team needs him to fill no matter the sport.

“We have a solid team this year. Practices are looking good, and I am very confident that we can succeed this season,” he said. “My hope is that I won’t have to kick many field goals. I’d rather be kicking extra points.”

With Burns practicing soccer from four to six, and football from six until, as Burns said, “whenever we get it right,” it is no question he is a busy high school student athlete.

Even with the stress of a busy schedule, Burns exemplifies what it is to be an athlete who rather than seeking attention for his own efforts, focuses on what he can do to make the team excel. Burns is an inspiration for all that even the role players in sports can epitomize what it means to be a great athlete.

Richard Burns and the Hertford County Bears football team open their regular season at home against Parkland on Friday, August 22.