There is something to be proud of on the Plains of Alabama, and the Auburn Tigers are blessed with the best gift a football team could receive. This surprise came right before the 2009 season kickoff back in August. It was polished and displayed, but most wouldn't know it's a "re-gift."
This gift has a name: Kodi Burns, former starting QB for the Auburn Tigers.
We never expect moments and actions that are this selfless from those that suit up and play the QB position. What we expect is the trivial and mundane transfer of those who don’t succeed for whatever reason. A backup QB who thinks he should be starting is a dime a dozen in most Division I-A programs.
Now, when maturity, a love for the game, and passion for your University are wrapped up in the heart and soul of a player, the benefits are priceless. Most young kids who for all intents and purposes have been "The Man" their entire football lives have a sense of justifiable claim to the starting position.
A player that is talented as well as proud and mature beyond his years is every head coach's dream. In the age of Me, Myself, and I, Kodi Burns has set the standard for the word “teammate.”
I don't think coach Gene Chizik anticipated a third place finisher in the QB battle would turn out to be the biggest surprise of all. After all, Kodi Burns was the starting QB for Auburn on a team that was divided amongst themselves last season. His claim to the job was as good as any.
Last season under coach Tommy Tuberville’s leadership, Auburn's offense was a sad ball of confusion. They were about as reactive as a snail cooking on the sidewalk in the Alabama summer heat.
During the meltdown of the 2008 season, some fans wanted Kodi benched; others asked, where is Chris Todd? Heck, we just need to play Barrett Trotter—screw the redshirt.
Not to mention the ever popular phrase, "Is the www.firetuberville.com domain available?" This phrase was typed on Internet blogs and websites from the Vanderbilt loss until Coach Tuberville’s pseudo-firing at the end of the season.
Then you had the fans who said, "Tony Franklin is a marketing genius, but his offense is about as effective and exciting as a five-year-old tackle football playbook." We know the support he got from Tuberville’s hunting buddies/assistant coaches was less than desirable.
Hopefully you weren't the fan that blamed the young "kid" at QB for the Auburn Tigers. That's always the wrong route. It's like blaming me for my parents being complete idiots. I didn't know that was my fault.
I don’t claim to be an insider, nor do I know Kodi Burns, but put yourself in his shoes if you may. Kodi was the incumbent at QB for a major Division I football program and had the inside track to the starting job in 2009. A rigorous spring training, the A-Day Game, summer workouts, and the strain of two days all led up to the heartbreaking moment no one wants to be a part of, especially a kid.
Not only did the coaching staff tell Kodi Burns that he wouldn’t be the starter at QB, but they wanted him to play another position as well! Wide receiver? He must have been devastated hearing those words.
Sometimes pride gets the best of us and causes irrational reactions. This is where the transformation from kid to young MAN happened in the course of one afternoon for the former starting QB and now Auburn’s wild card—better yet, “Wildcat” Kodi Burns.
What Burns did was accept the decisions of his leadership. It’s a testament to this energetic coaching staff’s ability to keep the players motivated, excited, and focused about turning Auburn into a top-tier program through focus, intensity, and execution. You have to believe in something bigger than yourself to be the best you can be.
Burns truly became the leader of this Auburn football team by example alone and fortified his worth and commitment to his teammates in a bold and humbling moment. I wasn’t present for this moment, but I can assure you it was powerful nonetheless.
When it was announced that Chris Todd was Auburn’s starting QB, shortly afterwards Kodi Burns stood up in front of his teammates.
This is what he said:
"I just told them that I love each and every one of them. We work together, we sweat together, we bleed together out there working out. I was the guy last year, and things change.”
Wow, and thank you Kodi Burns...you are the MAN and the ultimate teammate.
"I told them it's about Auburn. It's about winning championships."
This is the key ingredient to the renaissance of a football program that was down and out for the first time in nearly a decade.
Auburn’s coaching staff is an eclectic group who have one mission: Unity, execution, and mentoring the kids and young men who play for the Auburn Tigers.
The coaches will be a major key to Auburn returning to a bowl game and laying the foundation for the future and hopefully SEC Championships and that elusive National Title Auburn fans crave.
If the Auburn Tigers do have a great season or a very good one, you will know that an entire group of young men learned about humility and camaraderie in one hot August afternoon through the actions of Kodi Burns.
Burns has scored four rushing TDs and passed for one TD as the Wildcat in Auburn’s wildcat formation in two games so far this season.
His teammates are responding as well by averaging 42 points and 572.5 yards per game.
Auburn’s 2009 two-game totals are more than the entire 2008 season...although not true, it’s not hard to believe that statement as the Tigers were proficient at only converting three-and-outs in 2008.
My message to Kodi and his Auburn teammates is remain humble, work hard, and “War Damn Eagle!”