December 31, 2007 the Auburn Tigers are trailing Clemson in Atlanta’s Chick-Fil-a Bowl. Down 23-20 in overtime, freshman quarterback Kodi Burns’s blast up the middle and cuts back right on a 7-yard touchdown run to lead Auburn to a 23-20 victory.
It was the play of the game and helped earn Burns “Player of the Game” honors. He had played back up to senior Brandon Cox for most of the year but after this night’s performance, Head Coach Tommy Tuberville declared him the starter for the next season.
The future looked bright for the 5-star freshman. He had been rated the No.5 quarterback in the nation when he signed with Auburn out of Northside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas; and now he was poised to be the leader of the Auburn football team.
But then a series of events threatened to derail his dreams. The 2008 season was fraught with losses and quarterback controversy. He was benched for QB transfer Chris Todd and then reinstated again. The situation was exacerbated by divisiveness amongst the coaching staff, a division that hit a low point when Offensive Coordinator Tony Franklin was dismissed in the middle of the season.
What was suppose to be Kodi’s coming out year ended with a 5-7 record including a blowout loss to Alabama, and the resignation of Tommy Tuberville.
With a new coaching staff on The Plains in 2009, Kodi found himself in another quarterback race. Although he didn’t win the race, he forever won the hearts of the Auburn Family.
When he received the news that he would not be the Tigers quarterback, Kodi showed what a man does in the face of disappointment. In what has become a famous moment for the Auburn faithful, he stood up at a team meeting and told his teammates that he had Chris Todd’s back and … he expected them to do the same.
It was a bonding moment for the team and solidified Kodi as a team leader. That’s what leaders do – they put what’s best for the group ahead of what’s best for them.
It was also a critical moment in what would eventually lead to the Tigers winning the National Championship in 2010. His words and actions were the genesis of the team chemistry for the following year’s undefeated season.
Even though Burns had to change positions he went on to be a key player in that magical season. It was Kodi that threw the block to spring Onterio McCalebb‘s 75 yard touchdown run against LSU. It was one of his blocks that helped seal off a line backer in Cam Newton‘s Heisman signature touchdown run in the same game. It was Kodi that threw the pass for Newton’s famous touchdown catch against Ole Miss. And it was Kodi that scored the first touchdown against Oregon in the BCS Championship game.
That spring his dream of trying out for the pros was derailed by an NFL labor dispute and player lockout. After trying his hand in the business world, he got a call from his old Offensive Coordinator, Gus Malzahn, to join him as a graduate assistant coach at Arkansas State.
Then on December 4, 2012 Malzahn was hired as the head coach at Burns’ alma mater. He offered Kodi the chance to continue as a grad assistant coach with him back on The Plains. Kodi was ecstatic about the opportunity, tweeting, “It’s true, I’m Coming home.”
Of all the people that Malzahn will bring with him, none will be more important to the character development of the players than Kodi Burns. Having a man like him that knows what leadership is and knows how to persevere in the face of adversity will be invaluable in producing winners and … in producing good Auburn men.
Welcome home Kodi. It’s good to have you back where you belong!
Tags: Arkansas State, AubTigerman, Auburn - 2010 BCS National Champions, Auburn blogs, Auburn Football, auburn Tigers, Brandon Cox, Cam Newton, Chris Todd, Gus Malzahn, Kodi Burns, LSU, Northside High in Ft. Smith Ark, Ole Miss, Onterio mcCalebb, Tommy Tuberville, Tony Franklin, Track 'em Tigers