EAST CHICAGO | TreQuan Burnett has hands of gold. His legs and the speed they generate is also in that priceless category.
But his hands also have another side. They have an element that is sad, regretful and full of sorrow.
"I grew up around a lot of wreckless things," Burnett said. "I grew up with boys that were always in trouble. I can't even count on all of my fingers the number of my friends who've died, who were killed through the years."
The broken-glass upbringing has not kept the E.C. Central senior wide receiver from accomplishing big things on the football field, though. It has just given him a heavy heart when the Friday night lights are unplugged.
"The guys I knew, who died in the shootings, were on the same route as me," Burnett said. "I knew I had to change. My family, they was on me. Close friends, they've helped me get away from that life."
Last Friday, in a 46-44 win over West Side which gave E.C. its first sectional championship in school history, Burnett caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Carlos Fernandez that put Burnett's hands into the history book.
It was his 24th career scoring reception, which ties the school record.
He will have a chance to break it tonight as E.C. (10-2) hosts New Prairie (12-0) in the Class 4A regional. Former Griffith coach Russ Radtke is the third-ranked Cougars' coach.
Burnett has caught 28 passes this season for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"To be honest, I'm not surprised we won the sectional," Burnett said. "I always had the hope and faith in my teammates and coaches and myself that we could do it. It feels good, like a video game. To be out there (with West Side) with all that talent on the field and to come out with the win.
"That means the world to us."
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Burnett is being recruited by Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Indiana State, Eastern and Western Michigan and Miami of Ohio. Not only are his hands other worldly, but his ninth-place finish in last year's IHSAA state track meet in the 200 meters shows what kind of wheels he has.
He hopes to be burning rubber tonight against New Prairie.
"TreQuan brings it every Friday night, not every other Friday night," E.C. coach Stacy Adams said. "Not only is he extremely talented physically, bit his work ethic is extreme. Him and Carlos, many times, will stay after practice working on routes, working on getting their timing down. That's what has made him where he is today."
Adams believes had Burnett gone to more camps this past summer he likely would've already found his college. But the consequences of the mean streets kept him at home.
"I probably should've gone to more," he said. "But I wanted my family there with me and we didn't have the money to go."
Now, a very good team comes to town and the Cards want to keep making history and surviving.
"We need to kill anyone who approaches us," Burnett said. "We can't have no negative energy. We need to play hard and believe in each other."