Morgan Burnett was the quarterback. Almost two decades later, it's still surprising.
The Green Bay Packers safety was part of the most dynamic backfield in the College Park, Ga., youth football system. Burnett, around 7 or 8 years old at the time, would hand off to his bruising, lightning-quick fullback.
Taking the ball would be Cam Newton.
"I just remember we had a dive play," Burnett said. "I turned around and handed it off, Cam busted it up the middle. Touchdown."
Those are fond memories. Burnett smiled as he shared them Thursday inside the Packers locker room. Crazy, he said, to think he'll be seeing his former childhood teammate Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Newton, of course, went on to become the Carolina Panthers quarterback, but only after winning the Heisman Trophy at Auburn and earning the No. 1 selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He didn't stay at fullback for long. By the time Burnett was a quarterback at North Clayton High, Newton was the quarterback at rival Westlake High.
Burnett remembers their battles well.
"You knew then who was going to be the quarterback back then," Burnett said. "The guy was very athletic. He was special back then."
Burnett played defense, too. Some of his best memories are of seven-on-seven drills during the summer. He would line up opposite Newton, two former pros learning the ropes.
Burnett said he made his share of plays.
"I had a couple picks," Burnett said. "We used to go back and forth. Our high schools and our head coaches were best friends. So we had a little mini-rivalry. We knew a lot of guys on their team, and we're still friends with one another from both schools. It was fun growing up playing in that area."
The Atlanta area has some of the nation's best high school football.
Eric Berry was a quarterback at local Creekside High when Burnett and Newton were in high school. Like Burnett, Berry eventually switched to safety full time. He was the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and has made three Pro Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs. Last season, Berry was First Team All-Pro.
Almost two decades ago, they were just kids chasing a dream. Burnett said the journey has been special.
"Believe it or not, at that time, all three of us played quarterback at our high school," Burnett said. "It was fun growing up watching each other, competing with one another, pushing each other and seeing each other reach our goals and dreams. It's really a blessing."
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