Students in John Carvalho’s sports journalism class have written stories and offered them to web sites that cover Auburn. Following is a story provided by Will Gaines.
Blake Burgess graduated last Sunday
By WILL GAINES
Auburn University journalism student
To be or not to be a football player: that was the question Auburn senior Blake Burgess had to answer recently.
A theatre major who graduated on Sunday, Burgess had to decide after four years of playing college football if he really wanted to commit to another year of a rigorous football schedule.
“Well, I had kind of made my decision before the winter break if things go the way they go, then I’m probably going to be done, because I’m graduating in May and there wasn’t anything left I really wanted to study,” Burgess said.
After coming to this decision he had already begun making plans about what he would do after graduation.
Then he received a phone call from a familiar voice.
“I got a call from Coach (Gus) Malzahn a couple days after he had been announced to tell me that he wanted me back and that he really loved my leadership and wanted me to be part of the team,” Burgess said.
Burgess decided he would think it over and let him know what he decided. After a meeting with Malzahn, he decided that he would give it another shot, but after two weeks Burgess realized that his heart was not in it any longer.
“When you play any level of football you have to be committed in your body and mind,” Burgess said. “My body had been through four years of football already, and I was tired and sore. I decided that I would be more detrimental to the team than anything.”
Blake’s father, Rick Burgess, who played football at Troy University, faced a similar decision during his playing days.
“I remember there was a day when I stepped on the field or in a workout and I didn’t want to be there,” Burgess said. “I remember thinking this game will eat you alive if you’re not 100 percent committed to it.
“Blake’s calling card has always been his work ethic. He loves it, he loves workouts, he doesn’t mind practicing, and he works really hard. I think when he knew he could graduate he started getting ready for the place that God was going to take him in his platform.”
Blake Burgess arrived at Auburn in 2009 as an invited walk-on hoping to earn a scholarship, which he eventually earned.
During his time at Auburn Blake Burgess played several different positions. When he first arrived he was an offensive lineman, but was constantly trying to gain weight so he would have the size to play the position.
Soon the coaches realized the offensive line was not the place for Burgess and asked him to move to tight end where he played during the 2011 season. His junior season in 2012 they again asked him to make a change and move to fullback, where he caught a 10-yard reception in the New Mexico State game.
He was also a big contributor in special teams his whole career.
“His whole career at Auburn was selfless,” Rick Burgess said. “Whatever the coaches wanted him to do, that’s what he would do. If they wanted him to put 50 pounds on to play center, he did. If they wanted him to lose 40 pounds to play tight end, he did. If they wanted him to lose a few more pounds to get a little faster and play fullback, he did.”
After balancing his love of acting and his love for football Blake Burgess decided that it was time to give his full attention to acting.
“It was extremely tough,” Burgess said. “I was more excited about becoming a professional actor than I was about staying another year and playing football.”
Rick Burgess is the popular radio personality of the “Rick and Bubba Show,” so he has always had the desire to perform for people since he was a young child.
“His mother was on the radio, his stepmom was a news anchor on television, his grandfather was a college football coach and he saw him on TV and being interviewed in the paper and on radio all time,” Rick Burgess said. “Everywhere he turned he ran into some form of the entertainment business.”
Blake Burgess’s original love of acting, though, can be traced to a little sibling rivalry with his older sister.
“The big point for him was his sister always wanted to be an actress and is an actress now,” Rick Burgess said. “He watched her get into plays and do things. He saw how it was to get in front of crowds. He finally auditioned and got in a play -- I think it was “Peter Pan” -- and played Captain Hook’s sidekick. It was funny and he got a big laugh and response from the crowd and that’s when he caught the bug.”
Because of this desire to perform, it was an easy decision for him when he needed to decide on a major.
“Going into the entertainment business, whether it be acting or being on camera, is what I wanted to do and when I got to college I was lucky enough to be able to do both,” Blake Burgess said.
Being an actor and a football player requires a lot of time and a big commitment, and at times he wondered if he could continue to do both.
“Two springs ago I was part of a production of “Hamlet” and I was also battling for a starting job in spring football that year,” Burgess said. “It was exhausting. We had practice in the morning, I would go to class all day, and then have rehearsal at night. So those days were definitely tough, but I think I came out better for it.
“The most exhausted I probably ever was, was the last show that we had was on a Saturday morning on the Saturday of A-Day. So we had a 10 o’clock matinee and then I went backstage, stripped my costume off me, and then I ran down the street to the complex got on the bus and played in A-Day.”
During his time at Auburn Burgess also participated in several different plays, such as “Cabaret” and “She Loves Me” and was a part of the production “Elephants’ Graveyard” in April.
While Burgess always strived for excellence on the field and on stage he also strived for it in the classroom. He was named an academic SEC All-American in 2010, the same year that he and his teammates won a national championship.
“My parents were especially proud of me because it showed a dedication on the football field and in the classroom,” Burgess said. “It’s also just another notch in that season. Not only did we win the national championship, but we kept good grades while doing it.”
Being a football player has helped him in his desire to become a professional actor by giving him something that makes him stand out from the rest.
“Because of my size and my background being a football player, I’m trying to get into film work and work stunts especially for football movies,” Burgess said. “I’m auditioning for a football movie in April with Kevin Costner.
“Also there’s an FBI movie I’m auditioning for in Mobile. It’s a low budget film, but it’s still exciting, and that’s where I want to start so I can build up my credits and hopefully move to New York or LA.”
While playing football and performing on stage are something that Burgess enjoys, he also believes that being a student-athlete gives him lessons and characteristics that will successfully carry him throughout his life.
“One thing that football taught me is that you have to have a schedule and you have to plan things out. If you don’t do that and try and play it by ear then you’ll get messed up,” Burgess said. “Having that structure definitely helps and you have to hold on to that wherever you go.”