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Transfer RB Burns adds a lot to the UConn program

Storrs — Robert Burns has yet to take a handoff and burst through the line, catch a pass out of the backfield or throw a block on game day for the UConn football team.

Yet the graduate transfer already has made a positive impression since committing to the Huskies in May.

"He's an awesome guy...," said running backs coach Kyle Weiss about the new addition to the backfield. "He's very open, talkative and vibrant. He walks in the room and he just lightens up the room. He's a very mature and intelligent kid."

"... He's the type of guy who can connect everybody. He'll talk to all walks of life, very easy to talk to."

Before arriving at UConn, Burns was a reserve running back and played on special teams at the University of Miami. He earned a bachelor's degree in communications. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

But that doesn't even begin to tell his story.

He's accomplished far more off the field.

While at Miami, Burns started a non-profit with his best friend, Anthony Mo Hasan, called Second Spoon, a student-athlete run organization that distributes surplus food to those in need out of a food truck.

It all began when Hasan, who was at Syracuse at the time, noticed a lot of food in the school cafeteria being thrown out. He mentioned to Burns about taking that extra food and helping others.

Burns embraced the idea and went to work.

"I reached out to people at (the University of Miami) and reached out to people that I knew in the community and they just got behind us and supported us," said Burns, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Second Spoon and Hasan the Founder/CEO. "I got a lot of help from my teammates and from my support system there."

"What we do, we take food that restaurants or cafeterias or grocery stores would throw out, food that you would still be able to use, and we give that to homeless people or whoever needs it."

Volunteers distribute food in the Miami area using a converted FedEx truck. Second Spoon has now spread to college campuses at Vanderbilt and University of Southern California, two stops during Hasan's football career.

That's not all Burns is involved with.

Working on a graduate program project for music business, Burns came up with the idea of opening a donut shop that provides a space for local musicians to collaborate and perform at night.

It took off from there and Roberto's Donut's, which is located in Coral Gables near the Miami campus, was born.

Its slogan is, "Donut Stop the Fun."

"It feels really good to create," Burns said. "I like to be hands-on with things. I'm a very curious guy. If I have an idea and the support is there to do it, I want to do it."

While helping run Second Spoon and Roberto's Donuts, Burns still found time to go to school and play Division I football.

Burns, who's from Miami but grew up in the small town of Florida City, entered his name in the transfer portal in January and eventually connected with UConn, which was looking to add some depth at the running back position.

In May, Burns and his girlfriend flew up to Connecticut and visited campus. He checked out the football program and UConn's business school.

"When he was getting closer to his decision, he actually came up on his own to visit campus," Weiss said. "He walked into the business school and walked up to people and said, 'I'm thinking about coming here, can you tell me about UConn?'

"That's the type of kid he is."

Burns comes from a "huge" family.

He "grew up" in the church and lived with his mother before heading to Gulliver Prep in Pinecrest, Fla., where he stayed with a host family. He's very close with his grandparents.

"They've anchored me in my faith and just keep me grounded in my roots and where I come from," said Burns of his grandparents' influence. "Just reminding me to keep God as a priority, no matter where football takes me and where business takes me."

Burns said he'd consider bringing Second Spoon to the UConn campus. But his focus is on football right now.

His own business team will take care of Second Spoon and Roberto's Donuts.

"Football is the No. 1 priority right now in my life and outside of that, just having a good team," Burns said. "Just like a football team, you put people in place and you put people in position and you rely on your team and communicate with your team. The same thing when it comes to business."

Burns is one of six running backs on the roster.

He expected to challenge returning starter Kevin Mensah for playing time. Pre-season practice started Friday, with the season opener set for Aug. 28 at Fresno State.

"Without a doubt, I feel like I can come in and contribute," Burns said. "I know I can make every play that's called. "

He's already won over his teammates.

"Very humble," Mensah said. "He knows where he came from and he knows that he's been a leader. Just so many good things to say about him. I'm excited that he's on our team. I'm excited he's part of the running back group."

Coach Randy Edsall is happy that Burns decided to join the program.

"He's fit in very, very well, " Edsall said. "He's made a very favorable impression upon everybody within the program since he got here. That's a very good addition for us, not just from things that he'll be able to do on the field, but how he conducts himself as a person.

"A guy like Robert Burns is good for Kevin Mensah and the rest of the running backs, how he handles himself and goes about his business on a daily basis. I'm very glad that he decided to come and join us."

g.keefe@theday.com

 

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