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All-American wideout Jermaine Burton is now a Georgia Bulldog.

Jermaine Burton: Why coming home means so much to Georgia’s next great receiver

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry is focused on sharing the story of how Georgia flipped former LSU commit Jermaine Burton to sign as part of another nation’s No. 1 overall recruiting class. 

Jermaine Burton covered 5,663 miles on his road from high school prospect to future Georgia Bulldog. It was at least that many miles on Google Maps.

That how all the turns along his high school career add up on his way to coming back home to sign with UGA in the 2020 class.

Burton started out at Hapeville Charter Academy in Atlanta. His next move was to IMG Academy in Florida. A return to Georgia to play for Marietta High School was in the works, but he wasn’t granted eligibility by the Georgia High School Association.

That fork in the road led him to California for two seasons at Calabasas High School. Burton would go on to commit to LSU back in April of 2019, but it did not last.

Burton started wondering about Joe Brady’s future at LSU. He knew that Joe Burrow would be gone after this season, too. It felt like a “roll of the dice” to expect things to stay the same in Baton Rouge.

The 195-pound freshman chose to sign with Georgia last December. It all hit him about a month before the early signing period.

“It always just came down to life and life after football and the educational aspect of it,” Burton said.

Add up all those stops: That’s at least 5,663 miles of places that he called home or planned to call home on his way to Athens. That’s not even counting all the trips he’s taken to training sessions with former Georgia standout Terrence Edwards.

When it came down to coming home to play for Georgia, these names were the GPS along that road: Sheri Burton. Marilyn Burton. Sienna Borho.

That’s his mother, his grandmother and his sister, respectively.

Those three names were just as important as James Coley, Cortez Hankton and Kirby Smart in Burton’s eventual recruiting decision. Perhaps even more so.

According to Burton, his grandmother is now 73 years old. He makes it sound like she means a great deal to him.

Jermaine Burton-Georgia football-Georgia recruiting
Jermaine Burton (center) looked quite at ease inside Sanford Stadium at G-Day back in April of 2018. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“That had a big part to do with it,” Jermaine Burton said earlier this year. “My grandmother is getting older. She can’t be catching flights here and there all the time to come to see me play.”

She’s been his fan for the longest. Even when he didn’t play football.

Burton was actually a golf and basketball prodigy before anyone knew what he could do with a football.

Well, except maybe his Grandma Marilyn.

“She told me when I was younger that I was going to grow up and play for the Florida Gators,” Burton said. “Now it is the other way around with that. But regardless of the story, she wanted to come to see me play. That was one of her things. She said then that she didn’t even think she was going to be alive to see it for these kinds of moments. Now, I just want to see her to see me play as many times as she can.”

He had that same wish for his entire family. When Burton closes his eyes and thinks of the 15 people he loves the most in this world, they all live in Georgia.

When he catches his first touchdown, he’s going to look up in the stands. His eyes will track down those people.

“Of course,” he said. “That’s it. 100 percent. That by just saying that it will give me the chills right now.”

Jermaine Burton took official visits to Arizona State and Oregon during his senior year. But it was always going to be either LSU or Georgia down the stretch.

That’s why the “coming home” edit produced by UGA hit the mark.

“It has been the hardest two years ever for us,” his mother Sheri Burton said. “For all of us and especially for Jermaine, too. I was out in California with him. I’m a single parent. We were all separated from our family out in California. It was just really hard on all of us.”

Jermaine Burton: What he can be early on at Georgia 

Burton traveled all those miles to get to Georgia. What is he going to do when he arrives in Athens?

The simpler answer is he will make plays. Lots of them. It is what he has always done. He averaged 21.6 yards per catch and caught 14 touchdowns for Calabasas in 2018.

Ohio State freshman Lejond Cavazos has been friends with Burton since their first season together at IMG Academy in 2017. They were roommates as sophomores that season and have remained close ever since.

Cavazos strongly considered Georgia at two different points of his recruitment. The 2020 Under Armour All-American has no doubts that Burton will excel early in Athens.

“He’s arguably one of the best receivers in the nation this year,” Cavazos said at the Under Armour All-American Game this past year. “Jermaine is like really fast and he has great routes. I definitely see him balling a lot next year at Georgia as a true freshman.”

He predicts Burton will get on the field early. Because he brings the type of skill set the Bulldogs still need more of at the receiver spot.

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Jermaine Burton wound up rated as the nation’s No. 15 WR and the No. 81 overall prospect in the 2020 class on the 247Sports Composite ratings. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“Definitely and at Georgia, they will play their talented guys when they are young, too,” Cavazos said. “Knowing what he can do and knowing what he is capable of he is definitely going to shine there next year. There is no doubt in my mind about that.”

Part of that will be Burton’s mindset. It can be traced back to his IMG days with Cavazos.

That’s when Burton showed up as a skinny kid out of Georgia. He was there in a loaded position room with four seniors. They were all in the class of 2018. Those older guys were all bound for Power 5 schools.

They were bigger and stronger. It might have taken three weeks for Burton to nail down a starting position at IMG Academy as a sophomore. That is pretty much unheard of.

How did he do it? By focusing on the playbook.

“When I hit practice I didn’t even know all of those guys were going to be there,” he said. “I remember looking around at practice and noticing how big everyone was. “I was like ‘Dang, this is some big boy football out here’ and that just convinced me I had to go to work.”

But those older guys didn’t know their plays.

“There was one night I was on HUDL and I didn’t even go to sleep,” Burton said. “I was watching every install. Just watching and watching and watching. Then we had practice the next day. It was my time to go and my coach didn’t think that I knew my plays.”

Burton knew his plays.

“I was like ‘I know every single play’ and they were like go ahead then,” Burton said. “They did all the signals and everything and like this and that.”

Burton was like “come on’ with all of that. Boom. Boom. Boom.

“I was like ‘what else do you got for me?’ with all of that,” Burton said. “I was just going to work. Then out of nowhere in the middle of a game and my coach told me from now on you are going to run with the 1s. He said ‘whenever I call this package you go in and don’t let anybody tell you anything different’ and I was like ‘Bet’ with all of that.”

Can Burton play early at Georgia? He should. He can run and jump and catch the football with the very best of them. There are a lot of guys in Athens who can do all of that.

There’s more to Burton than that. That new kid at IMG Academy story exemplifies why those in the know feel he can contribute very early at Georgia.

Jermaine Burton: The Terrence Edwards breakdown

Edwards has now been training Burton for approximately five years. He’s already noticed Burton making strides from what he has showcased in that highlight reel up above.

Burton was in California for his senior year. He’s back in Georgia now, but will not report to UGA until later with the rest of the 2020 class.

“He has no school to attend to right now,” Edwards said. ”So he doesn’t have to study for a test. It is all football right now.”

It means Burton is constantly working out and training. It is almost like he’s preparing for the NFL Combine, but he’s not.

He’s using this time to prepare for his first season at Georgia.

The playful Burton of years past does not seem to be there anymore.

“He’s progressing and not coming in as a high school player because his mindset is different,” Edwards said. “He has had to take a little different approach. His mindset is a little different than it has been.”

Burton has always been fiery and passionate on the field but there’s a new level of maturity there. There’s more seriousness. He’s even cut down his hair.

“The biggest thing I have seen right now is his mindset and focus,” Edwards said.

With Burton, there has always been a rare natural ability. He’s not quite at the 6-foot-1 mark, but he could always go up and get a ball.

“I got with Burton when he was in the seventh grade,” Edwards said. “The biggest thing that stuck out to me and still his biggest asset today was the way he tracks and catches the football. He was doing it incredibly well as a eighth-grader.”

When they met, Burton was “green” as he could be. He didn’t start playing football until he was almost out of middle school.

“I don’t think he had much football experience at the time but he just had this uncanny ability to go up and catch deep balls,” Edwards said.

They soon began training together three times each week.

“I’ve told Jermaine’s mom this and I’ve said it several times,” Edwards said. “After the second or third session, I told her that she has something special here. He still was learning but his ability to catch deep balls was uncanny and something that I’ve never seen from a seventh-grader at the time.”

Edwards ends every Burton training session the same way: Deep balls.

“You see how he is able to track deep balls and control and contort his body to catching them,” Edwards said. “He can be in awkward positions but he still has the hand and eye coordination to make those catches.”

It certainly helps to train with a former professional who still owns almost every valued record for a receiver in the Georgia record book. That has made Burton a lot better, but he’s always had that knack.

The early drills between those two focused on footwork and the understanding of the position. Burton had to learn to drop his weight.

Burton was timed at 4.43 seconds on the laser in the 40 at the Opening regionals in 2018. His vertical jump has also been tested at almost 40 inches. He can get in and out of his breaks with the best receivers in America.

That’s what his 3.95 showing in the pro agility shuttle says he can do.

“Jermaine has always been very fast,” Edwards said. “I wouldn’t have thought he would be as fast as he is. But over time he has grown and developed that straight-line speed. I didn’t know he would have that type of speed.”

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Terrence Edwards uses the word “uncanny” to describe some of the physical ability that is already apparent with Jermaine Burton. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What Terrence Edwards feels Burton can do at UGA

Edwards feels Burton has all the attributes to play the X, Y and the Z receiver positions in Athens.

Burton is big and physical enough to handle bigger corners. He’s clearly fast enough to beat defenders downfield. Yet he understands zone and man concepts well enough to run the slot.

“They can move him all around and not lock him in,” Edwards said. “He can play the slot, he can play the outside and they can move him around on the inside, too. His versatility is what I like the best.”

Jermaine Burton-Georgia football-UGA football
Jermaine Burton had planned to return to Georgia high school football for his junior year to be closer to home. But he wasn’t granted eligibility at Marietta High School by the GHSA. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

He could be lethal at the “Z” spot. The chance to use his array of skills at that wide side of the field is going to be hard to match.

Where is his best spot?

“Wherever the football is going,” Edwards replied. “I just really don’t know his best position. I just know he’s worked all the positions from the outside to the inside and he’s really good at all of them. I really don’t know per se if there is a best position for him. Just put him on the field at any position. He’ll make plays. He’s one of those guys you will just have to find a position for him.”

When it comes to contested catches, the former Georgia great drops a very big name here with Burton.

“I always compare him to A.J. Green and his ball skills,” Edwards said. “Now [it is] George Pickens and his ball skills. He’s on that level. It is so effortless for him catching a football.”

The next steps are clear. He will have to pick up the speed of the game and master the Georgia playbook.

“It is just understanding how all of college football works,” Edwards said. “Once he picks those things up, he is going to be able to help Georgia win some games.”

What will be his reaction when Burton makes his first big touchdown catch for the Bulldogs?

“Hopefully I am in the stadium when he does it,” Edwards said. “Hopefully he will get that opportunity in that first game against Virginia. When he does it, it is just going to be a relief for me. Just knowing how hard he was worked to get to this point. Then with his long recruiting process and the different schools he transferred to and some things that were out of his control.”

Jermaine Burton-Terrence Edwards-Georgia football
Former Georgia all-time WR Terrence Edwards now trains a host of prospective college athletes in the Metro Atlanta area. He is also the wide receivers coach at Pace Academy. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“Just thinking of his mother and her bringing him to training from the seventh grade up. Just seeing all of that so far. You just want to see that growth and that continued growth for him as a young man. Now, he will be able to play out his dream of playing college football.”

He noticed the maturity leap in Burton after he committed to LSU last April.

The two would speak, but it wasn’t frequently when he was out in California. They had to swap text messages.

Edwards has sent receivers all over college football. For example, former Marietta star Ramel Keyton is now at Tennessee.

“I say this to all of my athletes,” Edwards said. “I never once told any of my kids that I train where they should go. They ask me and I give them the pros and cons and then I say at the end of the day it is their decision. They have to make that one for themselves. But he started to talk to me more and more about the reasons why he was thinking about Georgia.”

There was one day when Burton was in town. They went to dinner.

“I wanted to know why he was thinking about Georgia and he told me his reasons,” Edwards said. “I explain to all of them ‘Don’t do this because of me and my allegiance to Georgia but do it for you. Because I’ve lived my life and you have got to live yours with your decision.’ With some of the things that he was speaking about, I knew this was a different kid with some newfound maturity.”

Edwards saw a few reasons for the flip from LSU to Georgia.

“He saw the need at the position for Georgia,” Edwards said. “That was one thing. I think that his family would be able to watch him play every Saturday. His grandmother. His sisters. His Mom. They will be able to see him every Saturday in Athens. He’s a Georgia kid. I think at the end of the day he wants to represent his state and the state he comes from. I think those are the things which led him to flipping to Georgia.”

“But I still think the lack of receiver play at Georgia helped more than what people probably imagined with him.”

Burton just saw an ability for him to control what he needed to control and likely earn the right to play early at Georgia.

“He just saw that if he got the opportunities that others had, then he felt he could make those plays,” Edwards said. “That was something that really intrigued him as well.”

You asked for it. We heard you. Our weekly live DawgNation “Before the Hedges” recruiting show is now up on Apple podcasts. Check it out. 

Off the field: What Jermaine Burton will be like in Athens

With all of these athletes, there is always more than just what they can do on a ball field. Always.

The plan, for now, is to report in late May or early June. He will study business at Georgia.

“It also comes down to education with Georgia,” Sheri Burton said. “Georgia has the No. 4 business school in the nation. He wants to go to school for business. That was a big part of all of this as well.”

When he cut his hair, Burton said it illustrated he was flipping the switch to “straight mature mode.” He does seem like a different kid.

“I feel like when I had so much hair that people couldn’t take me seriously,” Jermaine Burton said. “I cut it and people started to take me way more seriously. I swear. Everyone said I looked way more mature and it kind of made me more mature. When I had all that hair now, I just felt childish. But for me the way it was I felt like a kid. Nothing against anyone else with hair like that now. But I wanted to hit another level. When I cut my hair, I just felt like that I am a businessman and all about my business now.”

There is a clear future path in mind. It is not just comebacks and curl routes.

“His dream is to be a real estate developer,” his mother said. “Absolutely. That’s what he is going to go to school for.”

What makes her the proudest here? It is just the journey. The perseverance through at least all 5,600 of those miles.

“Jermaine is such a good kid,” his mother said. “He’s never been in any trouble. He is a really good kid. He cares about everything. He puts his family first. His sister is like one of the most important people in his life.”

His older sister Siena was probably the happiest member of the family. She’s three years older than Burton.

“She wasn’t able to see Jermaine play but maybe two times over these last two years,” his mother said. “Those two are very close.”

Burton agreed.

“My sister has been checking me on everything for the longest time,” he said. “She’s taught me the way to treat females with respect. She taught me how to drive. She has taught me a lot of things about common sense. She keeps me level-headed. Even when I was blowing up as a recruit, she was the one telling me to stay humble and that a lot of of other boys wish they had what I was getting. She told me to stay the same and not get too cocky and everything would work out for me. She’s always been my biggest supporter in a tremendous way.”

Jermaine Burton: How his decision even surprised his family

Sheri Burton didn’t know that Burton was set to choose UGA back in December.

“We talked about it,” she said. “I told him how I felt. But I wanted him to make that decision. Whatever he decided I was going to support him behind it. But then I said don’t tell me where you are going to go. I am going to find out with everybody else.”

When she tells that story now, she still laughs. She really did not want to know.

“Because if anything happened down the road and I told him that he should go somewhere, then I would feel so bad,” she said. “This was to be his decision. That’s his future.”

Burton said she had a feeling. Sort of.

“I did but then I didn’t with it,” she said. “When I saw Jermaine he would be like ‘Go Tigers’ with that. I was like okay. Then nobody said anything to me at signing day about it. But then as soon as he put that hat on I was like ‘Oh thank God’ with it. He did it. Yes. I was like ‘thank you’ with all of it. Absolutely.”

It was a Christmas present to his mother, his grandmother and his sister Sienna, too.

“It was,” Sheri Burton said. “It was his present to all of us. To everybody. That’s where everybody wanted him to go.”

“It just means that it is not going to be a burden to all of us anymore just to go watch Jermaine play a football game and just to see him now. That’s what he wanted to do. He didn’t want it to be a burden for all of us to come see him play. He wanted it to be easy for everybody. … This was definitely 100 percent for the family.”

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The first time that DawgNation met with Jermaine Burton he was in Georgia gear. This was back in March of 2017. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

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