Today’s interviewee is North Clayton coach Cap Burnett, whose team is 4-1, matching its victory total from the previous four seasons combined. North Clayton has avenged three losses against teams that beat the Eagles by a combined 143-0 score last season. Burnett is a former North Clayton and University of Georgia player.
1. You’ve beaten three teams now that beat you by a combined 143-0 last season. How do you explain that? “It’s really just the boys’ mentality. We talked about it a lot over the summer, about things that needed to change, the way you approach the game, how you face adversity, and they have been displaying that change in mentality and keeping that positivity. It’s not a knock on my kids, but after you struggle for so long, it gets to a point where it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They understand that they control that. We can get ourselves out of the hole and find our way to the light. We’ve added some sophomores and freshmen to the team that are used to winning. They won the county championship. We’ve got some older kids who’ve been through a rough patch, and they’ve come together. There’s none of the ‘We’re better than you, y’all aren’t any good.’ It’s a team effort. Everybody knows it’s a collective. And my coaches, they’ve been coaching their butts off.”
2. What would you want people to know about your current team? “We have a hard-working group. I’m a younger coach, but I was brought up through old-school ways. The glitz and glamour is not our style. They take on my style. They’re really chippy, and they play hard and fast. We are young. We only have a few seniors. Our entire linebacker corps are freshmen and sophomores. Our defensive backs are freshmen and sophomores. Our backfield is freshmen and sophomores. Our quarterback is a freshman. There are a couple of juniors and seniors on the defensive line and on the offensive line.”
3. North Clayton has had some outstanding teams and great players over the years [such as D.J. Shockley and Burnett’s younger brother, Morgan, and another NFL player, Kyle Love], but that last decade has been a struggle. Are there challenges now that didn’t exist when you were growing up or first started coaching here? “For today, I think it’s the way things are set up with the way people are moving. Back when I was there in school, a lot of people owned their own homes, and all the neighborhoods were established. Now, kids can go to this school or that school. It’s happening all over the state of Georgia with kids just transferring. I felt like if we were able to keep our kids at home in their community and get a group to stay, because our middle school puts out so much talent, it would turn around. And that’s what I’ve been able to do. Let’s be real. Great coaches have great players. So I’ve been able to keep this group together. I think it’s the start of a turnaround.”
4. This is your eighth season as North Clayton’s head coach. Why have you remained so long? “For one, North Clayton is not just a school to me. It’s a community. I’m not just representing myself and my school on Friday night but my community. I grew up in it. It’s close-knit and family-oriented, and one thing you don’t do is turn your back on your family. I always felt grateful to come back here. Coach Shockley [former North Clayton head coach Don Shockley] granted me that position to start my career. We coached a lot of guys that went on to college and the NFL. Love of my school and community is one reason that I didn’t leave. I felt like at some point it was going to turn around in our favor because I stayed true to the process and trusted in God, and now we are here. I still know we have so much room to get better, and our region, it’s tough, and it’s really fixing to take off. But I do know it’s turning around in our favor.”
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