Currently, Kenny Burns delivers mail to the residents of Grand Prairie, TX, but 28 years ago, Burns delivered record-breaking performances on the track at Oklahoma Christian University.
Burns played football and ran track at Grand Prairie High School from 1986-1990. Although he was a multi-sport athlete, Burns said he loved the freedom of running track.
“I love being outdoors,” Burns said. “I love being free. Not to mention, my mom was fast. It was just something I inherited from my mom.”
After high school, Burns planned on joining the United States Air Force. Despite receiving several partial football scholarships, Burns said unless he received a full athletic scholarship, he could not afford to attend college.
“I had already taken all the written exams and all the physical exams for the Air Force,” Burns said. “I had gotten maybe seven or eight scholarship offers for football, most of them were partial scholarships. Coming from a single parent home, I said if I didn’t get anything that was a full ride, I was going to go ahead and go to the Air Force.”
However, “the Lord was looking out” for Burns. His high school coach and alumni of Oklahoma Christian, Jim Jordan, sent his running times to the head track and field coach at Oklahoma Christian, Randy Heath.
“I didn’t know he was actually sending clippings of my track meets to Coach Heath, but he had been doing so since I started showing I had a little bit of talent,” Burns said. “I didn’t ask Coach Jordan to do that. I didn’t even know he was doing it, but it’s like my mom always told me, God put people behind you, and what you think you may want to do, that’s not what God actually has planned for you.”
From 1990 to 1994, Burns specialized in running the longer sprints for the Eagles.
Although Burns said his favorite race to run was the 400, by performance times, he was better at the indoor 600. Burns placed fourth nationally in the 600 in 1991 and third in 1994. Currently, he holds the Oklahoma Christian record for the indoor 600 with a time of 1:19.83.
“It makes me feel proud of that accomplishment to know that I set a record and it’s still standing to this day,” Burns said. “I’m going to be 48 years old this year. That means a lot. Even if it was to fall this year or even next year, the fact that I held onto this long says a lot about the caliber of athlete I was back then. When the record does come down, I guarantee, whoever breaks it, I will be up there personally to shake that person’s hand. Even if I’m in a wheelchair, I will wheel myself up there to shake that person’s hand.”
While running at Oklahoma Christian, Burns earned six NAIA All-America honors. In 1993, he won the only national championship of his career in the indoor 440 in 50.04 seconds. Initially, Burns placed second, but the first place runner was disqualified for trying to prevent Burns from winning, which gave Burns the victory.
“It was kind of surreal,” Burns said. “I had been trying for many years. It’s hard to know that there are hundreds of athletes lined up to get to that spot, and the fact that I can say, ‘I’m number one. I beat everybody,’ It was quite a big accomplishment. It is even hard for me today to think about or fathom the magnitude of that accomplishment.”
Among all the All-American honors and top national placements, Burns said his personal greatest accomplishment came at the Drake Relays in 1993. He ran anchor for the first place 4×800 Oklahoma Christian team, running a split time of 1:50.1.
“When we went to the Drake Relays and actually won, I got a chance to see my coach’s face and he was so proud of us as a team,” Burns said. “He was able to stick his chest out and say, ‘Yeah, those are my boys.’ That made me feel good.”
For his many athletic accomplishments as an Eagle, Burns was inducted into the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame Jan. 30. The reception dinner brought Burns and his family back to Oklahoma for the first time since he graduated.
“It was overwhelming,” Burns said. “Just stepping foot back on the campus—I hadn’t been here for so long—everything came back. All the emotions and everything, and to see all the genuine people that I met when I was here, to see that they haven’t changed.”
“I’m not the type to get mushy and start crying, but that’s how I felt. Because all these great people that I met, they still recognized who I was, the type person that I was and they hadn’t changed. For Oklahoma Christian to just bestow upon me a piece of Oklahoma Christian. You’re solidifying my name into Oklahoma Christian’s history forever. It means a lot.”
After graduating from Oklahoma Christian in 1994, Burns traveled back to Grand Prairie, TX where he worked at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for one year. Currently, he delivers mail for the United States Postal Service, where he continues to walk his daily routes.
Burns said he was blessed by God for the time he was given at Oklahoma Christian and what it meant in his life then and now.
“You see some of the stars shining in the sky but there are some stars that you don’t see, but that doesn’t mean that they are not out there,” Burns said. “Oklahoma Christian was that star that I didn’t see, but I’m thankful to the Lord for Coach Jim Jordan. He helped me find that star and that star, in turn, made me a star.”