Thirty years after he last donned the red and black, Rob Burnett stood in the center of the Newfield locker room Friday afternoon, surrounded on every side by Wolverines players.
Burnett urged them to realize the opportunity in front of them and reminded them that this football game, the Long Island Class II championship game against MacArthur at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium, was something they would never forget.
"Ten, 15 years down the road, you're going to remember this," Burnett, who played 14 years in the NFL, told the Newfield players in his pregame speech to the team. "Play like it's your last day on Earth. Play like your hair's on fire."
Burnett, a fifth-round selection out of Syracuse by the Browns in 1990, was a Pro Bowl defensive end in 1994 and a member of the 2000 Ravens team that defeated the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. He had 73 sacks in his career.
He graduated from Newfield in 1985 but never had an opportunity like these Wolverines had Friday. There was no such thing as the Long Island Championships then.
"I made sure I told them that I was them 30 years ago, a high school football player at Newfield, and I never had this opportunity. It's the opportunity of a lifetime," Burnett said.
"I want them to have a memory that no one can ever take away. Make sure you have no regrets. At the end of the day, don't have the 'Oh, man, I missed that block. Oh, I missed that tackle.' None of that. No regrets. Enjoy it, and play for your teammates, play for your coaches, play for your fans. Play for the name on the front of your jersey."
During the game, Burnett patrolled the sideline in Newfield colors: a black jacket with red lining and black and red sneakers.
"It's a really special day for Newfield," Burnett said.
The chance to fire up the Newfield players before the game was an opportunity Burnett didn't take for granted.
"I love it. To me, it's an honor because it says my efforts weren't taken in vain," Burnett said. "I played hard, but we weren't as good as these guys are. But I still played hard. And so that's what I reminded them. You give it every single ounce of energy that you have, and then you got six months to recover. Leave it all out there."