UK Hall of Fame WR impressed with freshman Key

Published 7:17 pm Friday, September 30, 2022


Contributing columnist

University of Kentucky Hall of Famer Keenan Burton didn’t know a lot about freshman receiver Dane Key when he saw him play his first game for UK this season.

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However, it didn’t take long for Burton to realize the 6-3 Key was “special” and possibly destined for greatness at Kentucky.

“His poise just jumps out. I was in Lexington a few weeks ago and got a chance to meet him and talk to him,” said Burton, who lives in Louisville. “He is so humble but yet so locked in.

“He reminds me a lot of how I was. Bright-eyed, excited but knowing my time is now. Not in an arrogant way but just knowing this is my time. That’s what I see when I watch him.”

Burton ranked fourth in school history in pass receptions (189) and second in both receiving yardage (2,376) and touchdown catches (25) when he finished his UK career in 2007. He also set a UK career record for kickoff return average — 25.6 yards per attempt. Burton put those numbers up despite a wrist injury in 2004 and foot injury the following year.

Key is off to a fabulous start. He had touchdown catches in his first three games, including a 55-yarder at Florida, that tied the freshman school receiving touchdown mark and he just missed making a 60-yard touchdown catch against Northern Illinois last week. He has 15 catches for 241 yards – 16.1 yards per catch – in the first four games.

“His play is very sure. He has great hands, runs great routes,” said Burton, a 2008 fourth-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. “He’s big, but he’s composed. I really have not seen anything like him at Kentucky.”

Burton not only played with some terrific players, but he’s watched Kentucky football for more than 20 years and understands how difficult it is to have the success Key is having so quickly.

“You could see that in Randall (Cobb), but he was not a receiver. He was a quarterback (when he came to Kentucky),” Burton said. “He just has it. I don’t know why he has it. I don’t really say a lot about anybody specifically. He just has all the tools.”

Burton said he didn’t know what type of big-game situations Key faced in high school, but says it’s easy to tell big situations don’t bother him.

“With preparation comes confidence. He knows this game is precious. Nothing is promised to anybody,” Burton said. “From what I see with him, even on a big play or big catch, there’s no arrogance. It’s more like he knew it was something he was supposed to do.”