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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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USF has the edge in Burnhams vs. Elon
Wally has Pat on his side, with Shane on the opposing sideline.
By GREG AUMAN
Published August 30, 2007
BY GREG AUMAN
Times Staff Writer
TAMPA - Wally Burnham remembers his sons first watching football practice from the shade of their strollers.
By the time Pat and Shane were maybe 5 years old, they'd tag along for entire days in late summer, sitting quietly in the back of a 7 a.m. position meeting, napping in players' dorms between two-a-day practices, running around on the field and playing catch when a long day was finally done.
"They were always happiest on the days they got to go to practice," their mother, Barbara, remembers. "I should have known then they would go into the family business."
Burnham has been coaching college football since 1971, the year after he became a father, but Saturday will bring a first to his career: going up against one of his sons. As USF opens its season at Raymond James Stadium, his youngest son, Shane, will be on the opposite sideline as an Elon assistant coach.
"It's going to be a thrill. There's no doubt, it's special," said Burnham, whose son Pat is on USF's staff. "It'll be special up until the game starts, and then he's got to be just another coach. We'll try to whip him as bad as we can, and then we'll go back and be father and son again."
The demands of being a college coach can be hard for a father and husband, and when Wally couldn't make it home, Barbara brought her sons to him.
"She was so great about getting us to practice and see Dad," said Shane, 31, in his second season as Elon's defensive ends and special-teams coach. "And Wednesday night was always family dinner night, and we didn't ever miss a Wednesday."
The Burnhams have coached each other in many combinations. When Shane was at Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Pat was his special-teams coach.
"He was on my extra-point team, and I ran him a lot," said Pat, who is USF's director of high school relations, a key position in recruiting. "He was a great player, but he wasn't a very good long snapper."
After Florida State won a national championship in 1993, Wally, the Seminoles' linebackers coach, went to South Carolina as defensive coordinator. Shane, a standout linebacker, joined him, and the two grew much closer during their football time together.
"By playing for him, I got to see more of him in a week than I would in a month back home," said Shane, a three-year starter for the Gamecocks. "I didn't really know him well until college, and that made it a neat experience."
Pat joined them in 1996, working three seasons as a graduate assistant and intern. He was out of football for several years before joining USF's staff last year.
"When I wasn't coaching, I got to live vicariously through them," said Pat, 37.
Burnham, 65, said it's flattering that his sons would follow him into coaching. His family shared the hard side of the profession, like when the Gamecocks fired him in 1998, but his sons saw the joy he got from coaching.
"I think it accelerated their interest in football, made them aware of what it is to be a football coach, the time it takes," he said. "I know I missed a lot of things of them growing up, but they saw the rewards of working with people, the teamwork, the camaraderie. They enjoyed being around those things. We've been around a lot of good people."
This weekend presents a new challenge for Barbara, who will be torn among the three coaches in her life. She has turned to an expert on the matter, talking several times this week with another football matriarch and close friend from her days in Tallahassee, Ann Bowden.
"Ann's a little more decisive than I am," said Barbara, who works in fundraising for USF as interim associate vice president and executive director of the USF Foundation. "She'd say, 'Tommy Clemson has a whole lifetime of coaching ahead of him.' But what mother can truly rejoice if her child is losing?"
Her boys have had fun in recent months, ribbing each other about the game, trying to glean morsels of inside information in their daily phone calls. Shane said his ideal scenario is Elon winning 7-0 on a defensive touchdown, so his dad can still boast a defensive shutout, even in defeat.
Told of that wish, Wally was blunt: "My ideal game would be about 45-0, South Florida."
The Burnhams' daughter Allison will drive down from Savannah, Ga., with her 4-year-old triplets, who call their grandpa "Coachy" and will offer the most visible evidence of where the family's allegiance lies Saturday: Anna, Alexis and Avery proudly own Elon and USF cheerleading outfits.