CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The coronavirus pandemic isn't stopping the Atlantic Coast Conference from continuing on with its 2020 football season, but it almost stopped UVA defensive end Richard Burney from taking the field with the Cavaliers.
After starting the first three games of the 2018 season, the Hickory High School product missed the remainder of the year because of blood clots. Burney was healthy enough to play in all 14 games during the 2019 season, but his medical history concerned him about the danger of playing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to returning to campus for this year's preseason camp, Burney met with Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine Kelli Pugh, and the medical director and primary care team physician for UVA Athletics Dr. John MacKnight.
"They explained to me that what I had, my condition, is technically not considered an underlying condition for COVID, so once I heard that I was like I'm ready to go, I'm ready to come back," Burney said.
The Cavaliers started preseason camp on Monday and the team has undergone testing for COVID-19 since returning to campus July 5. Through four rounds of testing, the UVA football team has had 112 student-athletes tested and there have been three positive results, but none since the team's July 24 report.
"Right now we’re doing all the right things in the bubble in terms of COVID and things like that," Burney said. "When the students come back I just feel like that’s just another challenge the team's gonna be ready for. Social distancing, masking, things of that nature. I think we’re all prepared for that because we really want to play. We really want to have a season."
Entering his sixth season as a Cavalier, Burney is one of the team's veteran leaders and his new position coach, Clint Sintim, noticed that leadership from the start of camp.
"Burney is stepping into a new role and I think Burney, as of late, has been really intentional about trying to be a leader and trying to lead by example," Sintim said. "Burney, just like everybody else in the group, needs to continue to improve, but I'm pleased with what I've seen thus far out of Burney."
While Sintim is new to Burney's leadership qualities, sophomore defensive tackle Juwon Briggs experienced them years ago when Burney hosted him during his official recruiting visit.
"He was very thorough about telling me how challenging it is academically, and how good we are with football and how coach [Bronco] Mendenhall really holds a standard," Briggs said. "He's kind of been like that older brother type, always motivating me, making sure I know what I'm doing.
"He's definitely been watching over me and I'm very grateful for that."
The Cavaliers are scheduled to begin the 2020 season September 19 at Virginia Tech.