Catching up with Newfield's Rob Burnett

Former Newfield and NFL star Rob Burnett watches

Former Newfield and NFL star Rob Burnett watches Newfield's football team play. (Sept. 28, 2012) (Credit: Alan Schaefer)

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Rob Burnett loves his alma maters (Newfield High School and Syracuse University), his NFL Super Bowl championship team (the Baltimore Ravens) and a good argument.

If you want to get the affable 45-year-old riled, just mention the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 1987 Auburn Tigers.

His Ravens crushed the Giants, 34-7, in the 2001 Super Bowl, and Burnett, who started at left tackle for a defensive unit that featured All-Pros Sam Adams, Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson, believes he played on the greatest defensive team in NFL history. "It's no argument," he said, thereby starting one. "No one will ever come close to what we did. Everyone talks about the 1985 Bears, but we were better. Our records will never be broken."

The defenses of both the '00 Ravens and '85 Bears were ranked No. 1 overall and No. 1 against the run. The Ravens allowed fewer points and rushing yards.

"We had a special group of men and we achieved a special goal. We're brothers for life," said Burnett, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1990 and had a distinguished 14-year NFL career, making All-Pro once.

Burnett also gets agitated when he recalls the 1988 Sugar Bowl, which was played during his sophomore year at Syracuse. The Orange entered that game against Auburn with an 11-0 record and faint national championship hopes. Tigers coach Pat Dye, controversially, opted for a short field goal in the closing seconds, creating a 16-16 final. In the Orange Bowl, No. 2 Miami upended previously unbeaten No. 1 Oklahoma, 20-14, to finish 12-0, so Syracuse would not have been No. 1 anyway.

"I don't think of Pat Dye as a stand-up guy," said a still-burning Burnett. "They called him 'Tie Dye' after that and there were ties sold on the campus with his face on them. They had the ball on about our 15 with about 15 seconds left. It's fourth down. The only guy we couldn't stop that day was [receiver] Lawyer Tillman. Why not go for it? Why not try to beat us?"

At Newfield there were no brushes with perfection. "We didn't win as much as we would've like to, but we fought hard," Burnett said. "Warriors come out of the Middle Island school district."

He earned Newsday All-Long Island honors as a senior linebacker in 1984 and remains loyal to the Newfield program, attending numerous games, where he stalks the sideline yelling encouragement, especially to the defense.

He planned well for retirement, purchasing the home where he resides in Franklin Lakes, N.J., in 1997 and investing in a business that he now owns, buying and selling rentals and property in northeastern New Jersey.

"I studied economics at Syracuse and I had a business plan while I was playing in the NFL. I call myself a real-estate entrepreneur. People always need shelter," said Burnett, who worked on Ravens telecasts for four years but gave that up when his daughter was born. "Being on the road all the time gets old. My quality of life is pretty good. I have a 3-year-old daughter that I get to put to bed every night. I get to be a daddy and I get to be around my wife. I'm comfortable."

Except when it comes to a couple of taboo topics.

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