He's Only 20, but Undrafted Rookie Receiver Deontay Burnett has Grown Up a Lot With Titans


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Deontay Burnett wasn't yet born when the Tennessee Oilers played their first game in the state in August of 1997.

At the age of 20, he's not old enough to legally purchase an alcoholic beverage if he wanted one.

But the undrafted receiver has grown up plenty in the past four months with the team now known as the Titans.

"Deontay has been a pleasant surprise," Titans receivers coach Rob Moore said. "He's extremely mature, and he's professional. He comes out and works every single day. He asks great questions, and doesn't make a lot of mental errors. I really enjoy coaching him."

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Titans after playing collegiately at USC, Burnett rose to the occasion at the start of training camp, and he's kept the momentum going in preseason games.

Burnett is tied for the team lead with nine catches in the preseason, for 77 yards. After a relatively quiet May and June, the young receiver has made some noise while trying to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster, or on the team's practice squad.

His biggest cheerleader: Adoree' Jackson, his teammate in high school at Serra High in Gardena, California, and in college at USC. Jackson recalled Burnett's one-handed touchdown catch in a title game in high school, and seeing him catch punts behind his back.

"Every time he is lined up I am excited," Jackson, in his second year as cornerback with the Titans, said of Burnett. "I call him "Sure hands Tay." For me to see him playing and seeing him excel, I am so excited for him. He is showing up, but I have seen it before. I am pulling for him."

Burnett, born October 4, 1997, knows the folks he has to impress most are general manager Jon Robinson, and head coach Mike Vrabel.

Burnett admitted he didn't play as fast as he wanted in OTAs in May and June, but said as he's gotten more comfortable he's been able to settle in and make more plays, something he did a lot of at USC.

In his career at USC, Burnett caught 152 passes for 1,897 yards and 16 touchdowns. In his two bowl game appearances (Rose and Cotton), the 6-foot, 186-pound receiver caught 25 balls for 303 yards with three touchdowns.

"The more you are in meeting rooms and getting mental reps, the better you are," Burnett said. "We have a phrase: Know what to do and play fast. I am now feeling pretty confident out there.

"Coming in as a rookie you have a lot to learn. But as we got deeper into OTAs and into camp, you know more about what to expect, and how to execute. … And Adoree' has helped me. He's encouraged me on how to be a professional and to make the most of your opportunity."

Moore said Burnett has a good feel for the slot.

"And he's proven to be a guy who can run some of those routes you have to make good decisions on," Moore said. "He has done a very good job of that."

The Titans have one more preseason game – on Thursday night against the Vikings, at Nissan Stadium.

On Saturday, the Titans must trim their roster from 90 to 53 players.

Burnett isn't worried about his age – he's the youngest guy on the roster.

"I don't think anyone knows (I'm 20)," he said with a smile. "And I can't do anything about it."

He's also not focused on anything but playing.

And playing fast.

"That's my big thing -- I want to show I know what I am doing and that I am playing fast, and that I can make plays when they come my way," he said. "I want to play fast for my team."

The Tennessee Titans take the field for practice on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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