“My dad, my brother and some other folks close to me didn’t believe that,” Burris said. “They had this saying that I live by, ‘Never let no one tell you that you can’t do something, no matter who they are.’”
Burris, a wide receiver, defensive back and return man on the Kell football team, has had plenty of reasons since middle school to harken back to this phrase. He earned a starting role with the Longhorns as a sophomore, but missed four games after lacerating his kidney on a fumbled punt in the season-opening loss to Grayson and was used sparingly as a backup wide receiver the rest of the season.
Burris’ junior year wasn’t any better. He tore the meniscus in his right knee in the third game of the season and wasn’t able to return until Kell’s first-round playoff game against Southwest DeKalb. His rehab went well and Burris caught the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to propel the Longhorns to the second round.
“My friends and family really encouraged me during my injuries,” Burris said. “They told me to look forward and to never let one thing get me down. I just turned to God.”
While the injuries were a setback on his athletic career, Burris’ family issues were another story. He and his mother, Lisa, have been adjusting to her battle with lupus.
“It’s been a little difficult to see my mom struggle, but it’s been good to see her fighting to improve every day,” Burris said. “Seeing her fight let me know that I can make it through any injury.
“After my kidney, the doctor said I might not be able to play football again, but my mom was right by my side encouraging me, telling me I could make it.”
Burris has also had the added responsibility of being an uncle and babysitter to his brother Patrick’s 21-month-old daughter, Ryleigh.
“I think of her as my own daughter,” Burris said. “I like to babysit her. I like being an uncle and being in her life. With my mom’s struggles, sometimes I have to handle Ryleigh, but I love doing because I love being with her.
“There’s been a lot of adapting to everything. It’s all come on us pretty quickly. After a while, though, I’ve gotten into a rhythm and I’ve learned to adjust to things.”
Burris’ adjustments have gone well so far this season. In three games, he’s rushed nine times for 79 yards and a touchdown, completed his only two pass attempts for 79 yards and a touchdown and caught 13 passes for 290 yards, which ranks second in the county, and three scores. On defense, he has nine tackles and one interception. He’s also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Burris had the kickoff return and an 84-yard touchdown reception during the Longhorns’ season-opening win against Chattahoochee. It helped Burris make a good impression on the college scouts.
So far, according to Scout, he has drawn interest from North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Western Kentucky, Georgia State, South Alabama, Georgia Southern and Furman, among others. But he has yet to secure an offer.
“It’s been surprising to see what I could do since I’ve been healthy,” Burris said. “I’ve had time to work on things and get better at things. The injuries have been like a blessing and a curse.”
Kell coach Derek Cook has nothing but positive things to say about his talented 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior.
“He’s fearless,” Cook said. “He has all the confidence in the world at making a play on offense, defense and special teams. He has an incredible burst of speed. Like a car going 0-to-60 in 4 seconds, he’s 0-to-40 in two steps. He’s just that fast. He gets separation and is fast enough to maintain it.”
Cook doesn’t give Burris more than he can handle, however. Burris rotates in on defense at cornerback and safety, but he’s on the field for all of the offensive plays.
“I’m really happy for him,” Cook said. “I hope he can stay healthy and thrive as a student-athlete. He’s doing incredible things and other guys feed off him.
“I’m excited for his family. To have this kind of success for him is long overdue. He’s extremely talented and has overcome a lot of adversity.”
Defensive back Taylor Henkle, who has played with Burris since they were in middle school, is also excited to see his teammate excel.
“Julian’s had some tough times in high school, but nothing’s beat him,” Henkle said. “He’s a strong guy. It’s been fun playing with him. The challenges he’s faced will help him when he’s older. He knows he’ll be able to get through it because what he’s already been through.”
Burris’ goals now are focused on family and education. But he still has his eye on earning a college scholarship.
“I know size doesn’t matter, but it’s good to be big if you have it,” Burris said. “I have speed and that’s a gift too, so I have to concentrate on that and make something happen.”