“One of the things that impresses me about Kris is his toughness,” Lazor said Tuesday as Cavaliers players and coaches discussed their Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl date with Auburn. “I think back real clearly to some pictures in the Georgia Tech game, which was a real pivotal game for us as a team and offensively. And some of his blocking assignments in the outside run game were against their outside linebacker, and I thought he did a good job. I thought he dominated in the game.
Credit Nick and DeJuan Burd. They are Kris’ older brothers – Nick is 24, DeJuan 33 – and they knocked Kris around pretty hard at the family’s Mataoca home.
“I think of myself as a rugged guy just kind of by nature,” Burd said. “I’ve got two older brothers and just growing up around that, just being the youngest, you have to fight your way to get your respect. I owe a lot of it to them. …
“I take pride in my blocking. I want, when the other team comes out on the field, it’s like, ‘This guy’s tough out there. We’ve got to come ready for play.’ I kind of pride myself on being physical and just kind of attacking.”
Burd is also proud of an academic and athletic career that’s made him the first in his family to graduate from college – he majored in anthropology – and etched his name into Virginia’s record books.
Burd’s 156 career receptions rank second to Billy McMullen’s 210 in Cavaliers history, and his 2,087 yards rank sixth all-time. With a modest 67 yards against Auburn, Burd would move into fourth, behind McMullen, Herman Moore and John Ford.
This season, Burd has 60 receptions, and among Virginia wideouts, only McMullen has ever had more: 69 in 2002 and 83 in 2001.
Yet when Lazor was asked about Burd on Tuesday, the first thing he mentioned was his blocking against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were unbeaten and ranked 12th entering that Oct. 15 game, but Virginia rushed for a season-high 274 yards in a 24-21 victory.
Burd had a season-low one catch for 30 yards, but tailbacks Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson combined for 267 yards on 40 carries. Most of those yards came outside the tackles, where the 200-pound Burd was blocking linebackers 25-30 pounds heavier.
“I think it’s made a big difference,” Lazor said of Burd’s perimeter blocking. “It’s helped us run the ball outside. I’m not saying that to downplay the passing game production he has. I think that’s easy to see. But when you add in what he does for us as a team and the examples that he shows to our young receivers … about how you have to play physical regardless of your position …
“From the moment we got here [Lazor accompanied head coach Mike London to Virginia in 2010] we talked about being physical and playing fast, and we try to stress physical isn’t just for the linemen, and Kris has been as good an example of that as anyone on the offense of trying to build that physical attitude, whether we’re throwing it or running it.”
Lazor’s evaluation makes Burd smile.
“I’ve always been that way,” he said. “In high school I loved playing defense [safety]. … I got plenty of chances in high school to just blow some people up.”
Burd completed his degree requirements earlier this month and has been decompressing since.
“Five years of papers, all-nighters and exams lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “The last class I was taking was Spanish. I don’t know about y’all, but Spanish is as foreign as it gets for me. Just attacking that thing throughout the season, that was a grind.”
A phrase in Spanish?
“No entiendo,” Burd said wryly.
I don’t understand.
What Burd hopes Virginia’s younger players understand is how difficult the path has been from the losing records of his first three seasons to this year’s 8-4.
“They know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the bottom,” Burd said of teammates who endured 3-9 and 4-8 finishes in 2009 and ’10, respectively. “Us winning this year, I feel they see what it takes. … They see the type of work ethic it takes. I feel like it’s definitely going to build and carry over into next year and the year after that.”
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP