AUBURN – For Kodi Burns, life is good these days. He’s back at his alma mater, engaged to be married to his college sweetheart and looking at a bright future.
Kodi Burns says he is excited to be home again at Auburn/Phillip Marshall photo
Burns, a leader supreme in Auburn’s drive to the national championship, followed Gus Malzahn from Arkansas State back to his alma mater. When Malzahn, Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2008-2010, called, Burns was ready.
As spring practice draws near, Burns is helping offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee coach the quarterbacks and co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig coach the wide receivers. He has big goals. He and Keista Hough have a wedding to plan.
Burns didn’t hesitate when Malzahn called to offer him a graduate assistant’s job at his alma mater.
“Exciting. When you live somewhere for five years and are part of a national championship team, this place is always going to be special for me. Even the thought of being able to come back is a dream come true, and to be able to contribute and help out with the guys is really fun.”
Before getting into coaching last year at Arkansas State, Burns tried his hand as a medical devices salesman. He was successful, but he soon knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“I worked out with some (NFL) teams and that didn’t happen. I really needed a job but didn’t really want to get into coaching. I wanted to get my feet settled and kind of learn about life. Some awesome Auburn alumni helped me out and I got a pretty good job, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
“Having been part of an SEC and national championship team, playing receiver and quarterback in the SEC and starting at both, I just know there is a lot I can give back. I knew coaching was something I wanted to do.”
Burns went through some bumpy times in his Auburn career, but in the end he won a national championship and stood with President Obama at the White House when Auburn’s team was honored.
“There were some struggles along the way, but I knew I was still a good player. Being able to end my career not just with the national championship but being able to have a conversation with the President, shaking his hand. It was mind-blowing. It shows if you persevere you can make it. You just have to stay through it all. That’s what I did, and it paid off in the end. Being a part of this Auburn family and getting a degree from this university is second to none.”
Burns finished his career in style, catching a touchdown pass in Auburn’s victory over Auburn in the BCS Championship Game and being chosen to present the team’s gift to the President.
“It means a lot. People say what did it feel like to score in the national championship game. I still don’t know. It was so surreal and still is. It’s just a great feeling, a great pleasure and honor. Not many people can say they scored in the national championship game.”
Burns said it was clear going into the 2010 season that the Tigers had something special, and he says it went much deeper than quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
“I definitely knew we had the talent the whole time. Looking back, that 2007 class we had coming in and we started all those freshmen on the o-line. Having that experience on the o-line, having guys step up like Darvin, T-Zach and myself. Then we bring in a freshman All-American in Michael Dyer. All these pieces, and obviously you get Cam and Nick.
“The thing I think people fail to realize is we went 5-8 in 2008 but lost all those games by a touchdown or less. We could have easily gone 10-2. Everybody says it was all Cam and this and that. No. Cam was a special player, But at the same time we had a lot of pieces in place.”
Even before Malzahn arrived at Auburn before Burns’ sophomore year, the two of them had a close relationship. Malzahn recruited Burns for Arkansas in 2006.
“We are from the same hometown. He admired what I did and likewise with him. Being able to play against him at Springdale. The only reason I considered Arkansas, really, was because Coach Malzahn was there. Arkansas is a great school, but I was wanting to get out of state. Whenever he went there, it made an immediate impact on my recruitment. We kind of built a relationship after that. When he came back to Auburn, it was a dream come true to be able to play for him. He always kind of pushed me to get into coaching.
“When the opportunity came up, he didn’t hesitate to call me and I didn’t hesitate to call him back. He knows he can trust me and I know I can trust him.”
The turning point of Burns’ career and the decision that made him forever beloved by Auburn fans came in the summer of 2009. When Chris Todd was named the starting quarterback, Burns stood and told his teammates to get behind him.
“That’s just one of those deals where you have a choice to make. The decision at the time that I made was the right one. That was to keep the team together, knowing I could transfer and go to another school and start. Whether things were unfair and didn’t go my way, who knows? Who will ever know? The bottom line is I stuck it out and won a national championship. You just have to persevere through things and not quit.”
From that day on, Burns was a favorite of Auburn fans. He said he loves them as much as they love him.
“I know if you love them, they are going to love you back. It speaks to the way I was raised. My mother and father did a great job of raising me. I have an amazing family, great brothers, always humble. I think the thing people respect more about me is my character and the way I was raised. People can All-Americans and you might forget them, but you don’t forget somebody that stands for something.
Junior Kiehl Frazier, another Arkansas native, has gone through his share of bumpy times at Auburn. Burns can is proof that he can make it through.
“I kind of work with Kiehl a little bit and have. He’s done a great job. We just need to be who he is, be himself and lead the team. Him and (Jonathan) Wallace and all those guys. That’s where I think I can come in and help out. I’m so young. I know what it’s like.
“I think there are two types of quarterbacks, the ones that like competition and the ones that are scared of it. You want competition. This is college. It’s not high school and you are the hometown hero. This is the SEC and the best player will play. That’s how you have to look at it.”