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Blog: Burnette reflects on athletes’ academic responsibilities

The NCAA graduation rates were released Tuesday, and while they represent a record high for Georgia, the school’s average Рone percent below the national average Рhad some readers grumbling about athletes’ academic commitments and abilities.

“does basket weaving count?” wrote a commenter named dawggator, referring to the old notion that athletes like to get through college with courses on bowling, golf and remedial math.

Fair enough.

But I thought I’d find an actual Georgia football player and get his take. When I talked to offensive lineman Chris Burnette on Tuesday afternoon, Georgia’s 79-percent graduation rate had yet not been released, so he could not speak specifically to that. But Burnette did provide some insight.

And before you discount his opinion on the matter, take a look at his background. He graduated form Troup High in LaGrange, Ga., in 2009 as the school’s salutatorian and had scholarship offers from some big-name academic schools such as Stanford. His GPA was above 5.0, and he had straight As his entire academic career. The redshirt sophomore was recently accepted into the Terry College of Business as a finance major, and he said he hopes to pursue a master’s degree or possibly a double major within the college.

Essentially, if you’re looking to talk to an athlete who has a grasp on succeeding academically, Burnette is as good as they come.

So what kind of responsibility does Burnette believe a student athlete should have to work toward a degree even if he is holding on to hopes of going professional in his sport?

“I think it’s very important,” Burnette said. “I mean, we’re student athletes, so the student comes first before the athlete. I guess a lot of coaches may want you to focus more on football stuff, but at the same time, we understand that doing your academics is what’s going to carry you for the rest of your life. Nobody can take your degree away from you. And I feel like if we focus on those things Рfootball’s not going to be here forever Рso we know we’re going to have to focus on stuff that’s really important.”

While they have their critics, Burnette said student athletes are not all that bad and, in fact, the dumb-jock stereotype is far from the reality.

“The dumb-jock idea has been around for a long time,” Burnette said. “Hopefully, I think there are a lot of guys over the past couple of decades that have debunked that idea because it’s not really true.”

I’m sure Burnette isn’t the perfect student, and he admitted as much, saying his high-school study habits weren’t up to snuff when he got to college and that his push to be the valedictorian was done in by an SAT score he said was much lower than the eventual valedictorian’s.

“It was fun, though,” Burnette said. “I like to compete, and I was trying my best to do well in the classroom. One thing I defeinitely know is I would have taken the SAT one more time.”

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