Artie Burns holds to his first love

MIAMI -- Four-star cornerback Artie Burns (Miami/Northwestern) admitted that the thought of being a participant in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game didn't really hit him until shortly before he was awarded his official game jersey Friday as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour.

When Burns, who currently ranked 69th in the ESPN 150, saw the smile on the face of his mother, Dana Smith, the moment hit him full force.

"When she's happy, I'm happy, and today made her real happy so you know I'm proud of that," Burns said. "The whole ceremony has kind of reminded me how big a deal this is because a lot of other players work hard for this opportunity and it still doesn't come."

Burns is the face of a Northwestern program that was tops in the nation five years ago and is now rebuilding under first-year head coach Stephen Field.

"This is a great moment for the Northwestern program because we're in a position where we're trying to get back in the championship hunt," Field said. "This is big for Artie, but it's really big for the younger kids because they see what happens when a young man is working hard and doing the right things."

The 6-foot, 183-pound senior found himself thrust into a leadership role this season and the Miami commitment has excelled on the field because of it.

Burns had 67 tackles and two interceptions on the season. He has also made contributions on offense and special teams. His 19-tackle effort in a 10-7 victory over Miami Christopher Columbus was pointed out by his coach as the game that really changed Northwestern's season.

"We had just lost to Carol City and people were quickly jumping on us," Field added. "So we needed a big win over a top program like Columbus and Artie was there making plays."

Burns' competitive nature won't be denied. He is widely considered the nation's top 300-meter hurdler and will likely have opportunities to compete in the Olympic Summer Games in 2016 and 2020.

But his first love remains football.

"There are a lot of things that can happen down the road," Burns explained. "But I love football, I'm excited about the opportunity to compete against the top receivers in the nation.

"As exciting as a race is it's also exciting to line up against a top receiver in a one-on-one situation and see who's the best on the field."

Burns talked about the previous Miami commitments to come through the Under Armour All-America Game like former Northwestern linebacker Sean Spence and current Miami freshman running back Duke Johnson.

"Miami has a great history of players in the Under Armour Game," Burns said. "Both the Miami Hurricanes' program and the city of Miami.

"So I'm just excited to be mentioned with those guys. I'm hoping I can go there and perform well and continue to represent this area."