SUMMERVILLE — Four years ago, Cameron Burnette was a 4-foot-9 kid who became an overnight sensation on the internet after a video of him playing youth football was posted on YouTube.
Sports Illustrated editors saw the video and took note, listing him in their “20 Under 20” edition of Sports Illustrated for Kids. The magazine selected “the next generation of superstar athletes,” and Burnette, at 10 years old, was the youngest athlete on the list that included quarterback Matt Barkley, the 98th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and Bryce Harper, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2010 Major League Draft.
Today, Burnette is a freshman wide receiver for the Summerville Green Wave. He’s all grown up — sort of. He’s 5-10, but his doctor says he’ll likely grow another five or six inches. His days as a YouTube phenom are behind him as he settles into the routine of playing for one of the state’s most storied football programs.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was a celebrity,” Burnette said. “But there were a lot of people who knew about the videos. A lot of people still bring it up. Some of my older teammates asked me about it this summer, but it’s died down.”
Burnette, who will turn 15 in April, is the first freshman to start at wide receiver for the Green Wave since A.J. Green in 2004. Green would go on to become an All-SEC performer at Georgia and was the Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
“I didn’t know about the YouTube, but it sounds high-cotton,” said Summerville coach John McKissick. “On that Sports Illustrated list, he was up there with pretty good company.”
McKissick said his young receiver has great potential.
“He’s really coachable and has very good hands,” McKissick said. “We had three or four 7-on-7s this summer. That’s when I first noticed he could really catch the football.”
Burnette’s father Ronnie first posted a video on YouTube when Cameron was 8 years old. He wanted family members living out of town to be able to see Cameron’s football highlights. And there were plenty of highlights — Cameron rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 34 touchdowns in just eight games that season.
He hasn’t slowed down, though he has changed positions.
“Even when I was a running back, we knew that I probably would end up as a receiver,” Burnette said.
“My dad would throw me passes and told me to catch the ball with my hands away from my body. Too many players try to catch the ball against their body.”
Burnette said he admires and strives to be as good as Green, the All-Pro receiver who set numerous state records at Summerville.
“I always wanted to make it to college and the NFL,” Burnette said. “That’s everyone’s dream. But right now, I just want to get better and help the team.”
Burnette’s parents, Ronnie and Tawanda, know sports careers can end at any time. That’s why they stress academics.
“I like school,” said Burnette, whose first high school progress report showed all A’s, except for a ‘B’ in science. “I don’t like science.”
Most high school freshmen aren’t thinking about long-term goals, but Burnette is already considering his options.
“I’ve thought of a couple career paths and college,” he said. “But I feel if you have a backup plan, you don’t believe in yourself.
“Whether its football or school, it takes a lot of work. I am willing to do what it takes.”
While Burnette was listed in Sports Illustrated’s “20 Under 20,” it was ESPN’s ‘30 for 30’ television series that made an impression on him. He watched the episode about the Miami Hurricanes titled “The U” and now lists Miami as his favorite college team.