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College football: Burnam making immediate impact for Indians

New receiver comes up big for Catawba

Dominic Burnam

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Catawba assistant coach Corey Ready holds school career records with 190 catches and 2,976 receiving yards, so he knows a potential pass-catcher when he sees one.

Ready was intrigued by what he saw on film of Dominic Burnam, and the youngster from Georgia became a late, unheralded addition to Catawba’s 2019 recruiting class.

With injuries plaguing Catawba’s receiving corps early this season, Burnam, an 18-year-old true freshman, caught a touchdown pass in the Indians’ 21-14 win at Winston-Salem State on Saturday night.

Burnam played football and basketball at East Paulding High in Dallas, Ga., a school about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta. He was an all-region receiver, but recruiting interest came primarily from small schools. Burnam was set to attend Division III Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, although his visit to that school — it took nearly 12 hours to get home — left him open to exploring other options.

“My step-dad sent film to a lot of schools — he did all my recruiting and he’s the reason I’m at Catawba today,” Burnam said. “He sent film out in December, right after my senior football season. It was February or March when I got a call from Coach Ready asking if I’d visit Catawba.”

On National Signing Day in February, Catawba landed the quarterback, the kicker, the defensive players and the offensive linemen that it wanted, but no receivers were signed.

“We were still hoping to bring in another wideout, one of Coach Ready’s recruiting areas is Georgia, and he’d noticed Burnam’s ability,” Catawba head coach Curtis Walker said.

Burnam agreed to make a trip to Catawba with his family.

“I had a workout and took the campus tour and they took us out to eat,” Burnam said. “There were a lot of reasons to like Catawba. They were offering me more money than the package I was getting from Baldwin Wallace. Salisbury reminded me of my hometown.  I liked the campus and I liked the football stadium. And probably the biggest factor was the distance. Catawba is a lot closer to Georgia than Ohio. It will be easier for my family to see me play.”

Burnam is going to school about five hours from home, but he’s made himself comfortable as part of Catawba’s program.

While he’s not big (5-11, 170), he’s a 4.6 runner who executes sharp routes. He’s strong for his weight and he’s a physical blocker. That makes him an asset in Catawba’s improved running game.

While he hadn’t cracked the depth chart yet, on opening day against West Georgia, Burnam was on the field. He made a catch for 6 yards and carried the ball three times for 11 yards.

Catawba lost starting receiver Lovelle Williams in that loss to West Georgia. On top of that, Catawba’s top returning receiver Will Sweeper has been limited so far by a nagging injury.

That’s meant opportunities for players such as Roman White (a junior receiver who was on the scout team in 2018) and Burnam to contribute far more than expected.

Catawba faced third-and-goal from the Winston-Salem State 5 late in the first quarter of a scoreless game.

The Indians lined up with three receivers split to the left on a well-designed play. Burnam was the inside man of that trio.

While the receiver on the far outside ran a slant, the middle receiver retreated as if Catawba would throw a bubble screen to him. Meanwhile, Burnam sprinted straight to the end zone and then made a quick cut to the far corner. The Rams’ three defensive backs got tangled up some with all that crossing, picking action, and Burnam’s defender was falling to the ground as he made the catch for his first college touchdown. Then he tumbled out of the end zone. Catawba quarterback Kendall Davis was looking for Burnam  as soon as he saw how the Rams were lining up. He delivered the throw, even though Winston-Salem State got some pressure up the middle.

“The best part of our passing game on Saturday was that Kendall Davis hit six different receivers,” Walker said. “He spread the wealth around. It’s also great that we have a young player like Burnam who is able to give us depth at a position where we’re banged up.”

Burnam figures to be an asset for Catawba off the field as well as on it. He was a 3.6 student in high school. He plans to major in exercise science at Catawba with the career goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.

“I feel very blessed that I was given a chance in the end zone on Saturday,” Burnam said. “But I know I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to go to work every day, just keep grinding it out every day.”

•••

NOTES: Catawba (1-1) will make the 143-mile trip to UNC Pembroke (1-1) on Saturday for a 7:10 p.m. kickoff. Both teams own comeback victories against Winston-Salem State. … Veteran linebacker L.J. Melvin was Catawba’s defensive player of the week, largely for his interception and 54-yard return in the third quarter when WSSU was threatening to add to a 14-10 lead. “I saw Cameron Davis deflect that ball and I was looking around for it and it fell right in my arms near the 10-yard line,” Melvin said. “That was one of those things you can’t plan for. It was a great break for us when we needed a big play.” … Demonte Good, offensive player of the week, enjoyed a career night with 24 carries for 123 yards. His biggest run was a fourth-down conversion on Catawba’s seven-minute, fourth-quarter drive that won the game. “Just a great day by all our guys upfront,” Good said modestly. “They made the blocks.” … Special teams player of the week was kicker/punter Clayton Crile, who kicked two field goals and averaged 40 yards per punt. … Ken Avent III, who entered the season as Catawba’s starting quarterback, is still day-to-day, as is Sweeper. Davis appears to be the likely starter at QB at UNC Pembroke. “Davis grew up a lot on that game-winning drive Saturday,” Walker said. ” He showed a lot of poise. He managed the offense. He took care of the football and he made the right reads.” … Walker also had mild praise for Catawba’s defense, which pitched a second-half shutout. “We’re not where we want to be yet, but we did get better on third down and we did tackle better,” he said.

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