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USC's Tony Burnett, Leonard Williams find a West Texas welcome

Trojans who tweeted negatively about El Paso say they have been shown hospitality. El Paso Times writes about the tweets and USC's late arrival to a dinner.

December 28, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • USC linebacker Tony Burnett returns an interception against Colorado.
USC linebacker Tony Burnett returns an interception against Colorado. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

EL PASO — Tony Burnett said he learned his lesson, was better for it and was having a great time at the Sun Bowl.

Leonard Williams also said he learned from a mistake and had been welcomed by the people of El Paso.

The USC players each had caused a local uproar for negative remarks they made about El Paso via Twitter. The fallout included a front-page story in Friday's El Paso Times with a headline that read "Trojan Trouble." The lengthy story also touched on the Trojans' late arrival for a bowl-sponsored dinner event on Wednesday night.

Burnett, a senior linebacker, posted his comments early this month and later apologized. Williams, a freshman defensive lineman, posted a comment Wednesday night and apologized Thursday. Coach Lane Kiffin also apologized after both incidents.

After practice Friday afternoon, Burnett said he had been shown "great hospitality" from "all-around good people" since arriving in town Wednesday afternoon.

"Everybody makes a mistake — I can own up to it, and that's why I apologized for it," Burnett said. "Coming with an open mind really changed my experience…. They know what happened, they know who I am — it's no big secret — and for them to still welcome me is greatly appreciated."

Williams also expressed remorse.

"I'm not going to blame it on being a freshman, but I'm human, I make mistakes," he said. "I just apologized for it, learned from it…. The people here have really welcomed me, and I've been having fun out here. I just didn't mean what I said in that way."

USC does not restrict players' Twitter use — their handles are listed with their biographies on the school's website — but Kiffin has said that players are counseled about potential pitfalls.

Other schools are more restrictive. Georgia Tech Coach Paul Johnson, for example, did not allow players to use Twitter during the regular season but has lifted the ban since, an athletic department spokesman said.

Burnett said the social media platform allows him to connect with fans.

"I'm grateful that [Kiffin] lets us do that," he said.

No offense

USC and Georgia Tech attended a luncheon Friday, the second function involving food and both teams, but the first when they were in the same room dining together as planned.

Kiffin and Johnson said they had talked and had no problems about Wednesday's kick-off dinner, when USC arrived as Georgia Tech was exiting.

"I went right up to him [Thursday] night, the first time I saw him, to make sure that he understood that obviously we weren't trying to make a statement running 30 minutes late," Kiffin said. "They'd had a long day with their delays and stuff like that too, so he just said they asked the bowl guys, 'Hey, can we leave?' And they said yes."

Said Johnson: "It really wasn't anything personal on our end. It had to do with our team. We were all finished eating. We had been there for an hour and 15 minutes. There was no use to sit there and wait."

Quick hits

Running back Curtis McNeal was limping after practice. Kiffin said he was "very limited" during the workout…. Receiver George Farmer did not practice for a second consecutive day.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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