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How Keenan Burton, former UK football star, ended up in real estate

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We Meet Again

The Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com are publishing a series of stories catching up with former University of Kentucky athletes. Click here to read all of the installations published previously.

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of an occasional series in which the Herald-Leader catches up with former University of Kentucky athletes.

The year before Keenan Burton arrived in Lexington, things were not looking good for UK football. The Wildcats went 4-8 in 2003 and were second-to-last in the SEC East in Rich Brooks’ first season as head coach.

The program would continue to struggle, going 2-9 in 2004 and 3-8 in 2005 while the former Manual star watched from the sidelines. Injuries limited Burton to only eight games during his first two years at Kentucky.

But things changed in 2006 for Burton and the Wildcats.

Kentucky ended the 2006 schedule with a Music City Bowl win against Clemson and an 8-5 record, the Cats’ first winning season since 2002. It was the first of five straight bowl game appearances for the program.

“That’s the year we got over the hump,” Burton said about the 2006 campaign. “I believe that year we actually submitted ourselves as a group, as a team that really continued the foundation toward success.”

Burton is sure that the Georgia game in 2006 was critical for the team and himself. “The Georgia game stands out mostly to me, just because I think that was a defining moment. Not only for my career, but for us in that season.”

Kentucky upset Georgia, 24-20, ending a nine-game losing streak to the reigning SEC champion. UK quarterback Andre Woodson threw two touchdowns in that game, both going to Burton. The star receiver would end his best season at UK with 12 touchdowns, 1,036 yards and first-team All-SEC honors.

Burton had cemented himself as one of the UK’s all-time receivers by the end of his college career. He’s still second in program history for receiving yards and was recently named part of the 2022 class for the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame.

After his senior season, Burton was a fourth-round NFL Draft pick (128th overall) by the St. Louis Rams. The receiver spent two seasons with the Rams before a knee injury led to the end of his career. Burton finished with 38 receptions, 425 yards and one touchdown in 22 NFL games.

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UK’s Keenan Burton, left, is congratulated by teammates Garry Williams, center, and Matt McCutchan after Burton’s TD catch in the fourth quarter made the score (with the extra point) 17-14 in favor of the Cats against Georgia on Nov. 4, 2006, at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky won 24-20. David Perry Herald-Leader file photo
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Keenan Burton’s family includes Kacen, center, wife Tracy, right, and baby daughter Brielle. Photo provided

life after football

Following the end of his NFL career, the former UK star found himself in new territory — life without football.

More than a decade after the conclusion of his football career, Burton has learned how to define himself without the sport that brought him national attention and success. Today, his life looks quite different. Burton is focused on running after his two young kids instead of focusing on running plays. Instead of watching film, he’s watching housing prices.

“I am a devoted husband, an entrepreneur, a real estate investor,” he said. “I found myself outside of the game in business.”

In 2014, Burton started working for IDLife, a nutrition company based in Frisco, Texas. IDLife advertises itself online as “a health and wellness company that is revolutionizing the industry with customized nutrition.” Other pro athletes have been linked to IDLife as well — Washington Nationals first baseman Josh Bell is listed as an investor on the company’s website. Burton doesn’t technically work for IDLife anymore, but he’s still earning a residual income from the company.

The former NFL player went back to school in 2016, earning a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Miami. He used his business education to learn about wealth accumulation and was drawn to real estate. Currently, his real estate work crosses state lines, with a focus on homes in Lexington, Louisville and Atlanta.

“I started to research how the truly wealthy created their wealth,” he said. “And real estate was one of the ways. For some, that’s the main way. Once I saw that, I started my journey, as well. It was based on learning about money and the way it works.”

While Burton has embarked on a new journey in business, he still has a lot of appreciation for his time with UK football. He goes to games to cheer on his former team and regards his decision to play for UK as one of the best choices he has made.

“It’s the best decision that I’ve ever made.”

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Kentucky wide receiver Keenan Burton, left, carries off the trophy as safety Marcus McClinton (2) looks on after their team defeated Florida State 35-28 in the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 31, 2007. Bill Waugh ASSOCIATED PRESS

Q&A

What do you remember the most about Coach Rich Brooks?

“His tenacity and his desire to win. The way that he disciplined held us accountable. And he expected excellence, which I think is another reason why we had success.”

If you hadn’t picked UK, which college would you have gone to?

“If I didn’t have Kentucky, then I probably would have probably gone to JUCO to play quarterback and see what would have happened. I think I had some lower level basketball offers that I didn’t entertain because of my career in football.”

Was there a time that you ever questioned picking UK?

“Yeah, there were times. Being from Louisville, saying the ‘K-word’ is forbidden. When you grow up a Louisville Cardinal fan, you’re kind of hesitant because of what comes with that. People who love you will start to hate you. I mean, they literally hate you and tell you that they cheer for you but they won’t cheer your team. I just didn’t know if I really wanted that pressure or if I wanted that criticism. But it’s the best decision that I’ve ever made.” (Note: Burton did not receive a scholarship offer from U of L.)

What’s the most recent UK sporting event that you attended?

“I actually went to the Kentucky football game against Georgia this past year in Athens.”

Who’s been your favorite UK player to watch during the last couple of seasons?

“Wan’Dale Robinson is at the top of the list. I believe that if he was here for two years, then he would have broken every single Kentucky receiving record that exists. I think he should go down as one of the greatest Kentucky receivers of all time, which will probably be unpopular. I really enjoyed watching Benny Snell just because of his desire for him to win. And I’m looking forward to watching DeMarcus Harris this year, just to see how he develops as the number one receiver. He’ll probably be one of my favorites this year.”

Who was your sports idol growing up?

“My dad. I didn’t get a chance to watch a lot of sports when I grew up. I knew of Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders and guys like that, and I liked them. But you know, all I remember is my father running for Manual High School. Everybody told me how fast he was on the track. So, I was really trying to compete with him — his younger self. I wanted to be better than him.”

What do you wish someone would have told you before you began your college sports career?

“Don’t take any moments for granted. I also wish they would have talked to me about balance.

I never really got a chance to enjoy college because I was so focused on winning and having an opportunity to play at the next level. But, in order to be able to achieve things, sometimes there’s things that you have to sacrifice. I never cheated a day and so I just wish that maybe I would have had a little bit more balance. And maybe I would have enjoyed the college process more than I did.”

What is your biggest regret from your time at Kentucky?

“My biggest regret is that I didn’t leave my junior year. I believe that Stevie Johnson and Dicky Lyons were ready. Looking back, they didn’t need me. I sacrificed a lot personally, but I think that I hurt them more than I helped them by coming back. Jacob Tamme, Andre Woodson, Rafael Little, Stevie Johnson and Dicky Lyons didn’t need me. If I could have done it again, then I probably would have declared for the NFL Draft after the 2006 season.”

Which of your former UK teammates do you stay in contact with the most?

“Braxton Kelley, Marcus McClinton and Dicky Lyons.”

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Keenan Burton stretches out for a second-quarter touchdown against Florida Atlantic in 2007. Burton was recently elected to the UK Athletics Hall of Fame and will be inducted this fall. Mark Cornelison Herald-Leader file photo
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Keenan Burton, left, caught 38 passes for 425 yards and a touchdown in two years with the St. Louis Rams before injuries cut short his NFL career. Jeff Robertson AP

This story was originally published July 27, 2022 7:26 AM.

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