George McClure remembers when Evers Burns had choices to make. Tough choices like where to go to school and what sport to play.
McClure, the athletic director and assistant basketball coach at Woodlawn High, recalls when football recruiters from Miami, Penn State and Nebraska came to ask if the big tight end wouldn't mind catching a few for their school.
And with his credentials -- 29 catches for 15 touchdowns and an average of more than 20 yards per catch -- football seemed the way to go for Burns.
But, as McClure tells it, the round ball always held sway with Burns, and when the big school down the road offered him a chance to pursue his desire, he couldn't sign fast enough.
"His first love was basketball," McClure said last night. "He told me, 'Coach, I want to play basketball.' He was able to play at home and he's a Maryland fan."
And the rest is history, as the 6-foot-8 sophomore followed his heart and signed on to play forward at College Park.
"Evers is definitely a good football player, but he made the right decision," said McClure.
But he didn't forget home and because sometimes, you really do want to go where everybody knows your name, Burns led his Maryland teammates back to his old stomping ground for a scrimmage last night.
It didn't take long for Burns, who helped lead the Warriors to the state semifinals in his senior year, to warm up to the comforts of home.
"It feels like my old high school days," said Burns. "I grew up with these people. I love this place."
And they love him, too. The gym was three-quarters full for a night McClure said students had been looking forward to since the date of the intra-squad scrimmage was announced in September.
"It's been one of the highlights of the year," said McClure. "Everyone that I talk to now tells me they knew Evers. They are in awe of him."
Burns is the biggest thing to happen to Woodlawn sports since Carlton Bailey starred here, then went on to North Carolina, before moving to a linebacker slot with the Buffalo Bills.
And although Bailey has blazed a trail on the gridiron for Woodlawn players to follow, Burns is sure he is in the right place, doing the right thing.
"I like the game of basketball better," said Burns, who averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in limited action last year. "I do miss football a lot though.
"Every time I go to a Maryland game, I wish I was playing. But I feel I made the right decision."
His reputation as an upstanding and thoughtful person still impacts Woodlawn and its athletic program.
"A lot of people wanted to see if he had improved as a player," said Ferron Carter, in attendance last night and a member of Woodlawn's junior varsity team when Burns was a senior.
"A lot of athletes really look up to him. He showed me how to keep a winning attitude and he told me never to quit. He told me that as long as I work at it, I can get it."
The Warriors' spirit still runs through Burns, two years removed from the school. Last year, he came down from the stands to give the basketball team a pep talk at halftime of the regional finals against Seneca Valley.
Woodlawn won handily, and the victory was especially sweet for Burns, as the Warriors had dropped the same game to the same team two years previous at home by one point.
That loss cost Burns a chance to meet his future teammate, guard Walt Williams, then of Crossland, in the state semifinals.
"We were supposed to meet up with Walt's team, but we just looked past them [Seneca Valley]," said Burns.
"I told the guys who were there to remember what they had done to us, and I told them to take it to them."
There were, of course, more practical reasons for Maryland to play a scrimmage at Woodlawn than just to give Burns the opportunity to play at home again.
Maryland coach Gary Williams is, after all, attempting to forge relationships across the state and the Baltimore area is a most important one to bond with.
"We want to get into Baltimore. It's crucial for us and we intend to recruit heavily here," said Williams.
Indeed, a number of area players who might have a future interest in the Maryland program, were lined up along the baseline.
And the Terps did little to discourage them, showing flash, with three trademark Walt Williams alley-oop dunks, and precision, as Williams and new backcourt mate Matt Roe picked the pockets of their outclassed teammates.
Burns played well, with 21 points in the two 20-minute sessions, a mess of rebounds, two blocks and his own version of the alley-oop, all encouraging signs for a player who is expected to be an important cog in the Maryland machine.
"For Evers, this is a big year," said Gary Williams. "He's going to go from being a role player last year to an important part of the team. He's been working hard and he's played well."
Burns seemed genuinely embarrassed when the school presented his family and him with a plaque at halftime.
But if he was nervous about performing before the old home crowd, he didn't show it.
"He never talks about that [nervousness]," said his father, Emmett, a minister at a local Baptist church who has sent two other sons to play football at Woodlawn.
"It's an honor for him. This was a total success."