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Gators receiver Trey Burton, left, will play his final game today with his brother and teammate, Clay.

Saturday November 30, 2013Trey Burton at Peace with Way UF Career Played Out

Gators receiver Trey Burton, left, will play his final game today with his brother and teammate, Clay.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The memory is as fresh as the morning dew for Cindy Burton.

The date was Sept. 4, 2010. She was at Florida Field with her youngest son Clay and several other family members, including her mother, Cena McClintock.

And then it happened.

Cindy's oldest son Trey took his first snap at quarterback midway into the second quarter. Gators center Mike Pouncey snapped the ball directly to Trey out of the shotgun.

On his first college carry, Trey Burton scored on 2-yard run in Florida's season-opening win over Miami (Ohio). When he reached the end zone he pointed to the section of the stands where his family was sitting.

His grandmother was overwhelmed. She passed out.

"They admitted her to Shands and she had to stay overnight,'' Cindy said. "I had to come back on Sunday to get her."

It's the only game the 78-year-old McClintock has attended during her grandsons' UF careers. A year after Trey arrived at UF and was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team, Clay rejoined his older brother with the Gators.

They were teammates once more like so many times growing up, including at Venice (Fla.) High. When the Gators host Florida State on Saturday in the regular-season finale, it will be their final game together at UF.

A receiver with a career-high 38 catches, Trey is one of 17 seniors who will be honored on Senior Day. Clay is a junior starting tight end who began his career at defensive end before moving to offense in 2012.

The Burton Boys will have their own rooting section as usual, with their mom making the trek from south Florida a few days earlier than normal to spend Thanksgiving with her sons.

Meanwhile, McClintock will be back, too. She came to Trey's first game; she plans to come to his final game.

"That's huge that she is going to be there,'' Clay said.

*****

Trey's final season with the Gators has not gone as anyone expected. Florida is 4-7 entering today's game against FSU and will finish with a losing record for the first time in 34 years.

Burton's career has not gone as expected, either.

Recruited by former Gators coach Urban Meyer as an athletic quarterback capable of running Meyer's spread-option attack, the Gators tweaked the offense Burton's first season to fit quarterback John Brantley's skills as a traditional drop-back passer.

Burton's game was more suited to the offense Tim Tebow ran using his skills as a physical runner mixed with a consistent diet of short passes to Florida's playmakers.

Trey Burton

Burton showed up certain of only one thing.

"I never expected to sit on the bench,'' he said. "I knew I had Brantley is front of me so I was going to have to find a different way onto the field."

That he did.

Burton began a journey that includes various roles the past four seasons. He has played quarterback in the Wildcat formation, running back, fullback, tight end and slot receiver, where he has primarily settled as a senior. Burton is a regular on special teams.

Burton will play in his 50th career game today. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Mr. Versatility is second behind senior receiver Solomon Patton with an average of 50.9 all-purpose yards per game.

He needs 24 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for his career. Burton has scored 20 touchdowns, including a school-record six (five rushing, one receiving) in a victory over Kentucky as a freshman.

The six-touchdown game was Burton's fourth career game and elevated his status among a fan base hungry for the next Tebow.

There is only one Tebow. Burton has focused on being the best Trey Burton he could be over the past four seasons.

"I've learned a lot of life lessons through my four years here -- the highest of highs and lowest of lows,'' he said. "I couldn't have wished for anything better."

That quote is typical Trey. While the media often prods him in terse exchanges, Burton has refused to blame others or go off script as the consummate teammate.

His versatility has been a blessing and a curse. No player the past four years has been analyzed publicly perhaps as much as Burton.

One camp considers him to be a dynamic weapon the Gators have underused, especially in Charlie Weis' one season (2011) as offensive coordinator; the other camp says he is good at several positions, a master of none.

Cindy has heard the same chatter in their hometown. She has used Trey's approach as that of her own when someone asks, "What's going on with Trey?"

"The way he has handled everything, he's actually helped me handle everything better,'' Cindy said. "He's been the one to tell us, 'OK, this is the way it's going to go now. This is what we're going to do. I'm going to have to play here and there.'

"That's all he wants to do is win and be a team player. I didn't expect the four years to go the way they have, but I can totally see it. This is Trey. This is the way he is. It's not about him. It's about the Gators. He's heartbroken by what's happened. We all are. It's painful to watch and I know the Gator fans are so unhappy, but I just think this will help him as he goes on. He will always remember this."

*****

While Trey's time at UF has flown by in Cindy's eyes, for him the pace has been more deliberate. So much has happened for the 22-year-old Burton, including becoming a father.

Burton's wife Yesenia gave birth to daughter Ariella on Dec. 20. Her first birthday will be six days after her father graduates with a degree in Family Youth and Community Science.

Burton's high football IQ, his versatility and combination of size and speed are expected to land him a spot in the NFL. Longtime talent evaluator Gil Brandt, former executive with the Dallas Cowboys, recently wrote that Burton might be best suited at running back or safety in the NFL.

Trying to play at the next level is a future journey.

Trey has spent this week relishing his time at UF: sharing a room with his brother on Friday nights before games, playing with Ariella on the field after practice, representing the Gators on Twitter -- Burton has nearly 29,000 followers -- with a positive outlook based on his strong Christian faith.

The time with Clay is especially meaningful.

"It's extremely rare,'' Trey said. "We've been trying to make the best and most of it since we've been here together."

Living in a fishbowl the past four years as one of the Gators' most high-profile players has served as a learning experience he wants to use to his advantage in the future.

"It's been tough [at times],'' he said. "I know my abilities. Sometimes I think I can do more and then I really can't. I can't question anything I've gone through this year or even my whole career. I've just tried to make the best of every opportunity I've been given."

Regardless of what happens against FSU, Trey knows come Saturday night he'll have a smile on his face. That's because of Yesenia and Arielle.

He and Clay grew up without their biological father. He left the family when Trey was a toddler.

In his place Cindy's four brothers and late father, Bob "Pop" McClintock,'' stepped in to provide the boys with direction. So did others in the Venice community, including youth coaches and members of their church.

Trey tries to use the examples those men set as he raises his daughter.

"I'm huge into being a father,'' he said. "I love my daughter. My dad was never there for my brother and I. Being a father is always something I really, really wanted to be. Having my daughter has changed my life for the good. I can't really even put into words how much of a blessing it is to be a father.

"It gives you another reason to play and do what you do. Even in the lows, I can think of her and it brings me back up."

With Senior Day here, Clay is thankful he followed his older brother to UF for days like this. He has never been concerned with playing in Trey's shadow.

"We've played together our whole lives,'' said Clay, 11 months younger than Trey. "He's the main reason I came to Florida. It's just been a great ride and we've grown up so much as men. I'm just thankful to be a part of that."

Cindy plans to pretend Saturday is not going to be emotional. That plan has not worked out well.

"I'm overwhelmed with emotions,'' she said.

She has reflected on so much the past few days, everything from her father's influence on the boys to having her mom at Trey's final game.

Like many others, Cindy didn't see Trey's final season at UF playing out in this fashion. But she is content. Once again, he is taking her oldest son's lead.

"There's no crying at football,'' she said. "It's just been an awesome experience."

 

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