BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – Kodi Burns knows what it’s like to be a five-star quarterback prospect with a world of expectations on his shoulders, like Kiehl Frazier.
Burns knows what it’s like to take off the redshirt as a precocious true freshman and suddenly lead his team into battle, like Jonathan Wallace.
Burns knows how to find whatever role he must to help Auburn succeed, so it was no surprise in early December when coach Gus Malzahn, his former offensive coordinator at Auburn and head boss at Arkansas State, invited one of the Auburn family’s favorite sons to come back to his college stomping grounds.
He calls Fort Smith, Ark. his native land, but Burns feels just as home at Auburn, a 2007-2010 letterman who is beginning his second year as an offensive graduate assistant, and first with the Tigers.
“The memories really never left. Being in a place like this, it becomes your family,” Burns said in a sitdown with reporters Wednesday. “The team has become your brothers. I woke up every morning, I sweat, bled, tears, on that field every single day.
“So I am Auburn. It’s in me. It’s (great) to be back and to be around these people … once you leave Auburn, it never leaves you.”
Burns, 24, started his career as a quarterback, running in the game-winning touchdown to beat Clemson in the 2007 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. He ended it by famously caught a touchdown pass in the 2011 BCS National Championship victory over Oregon.
After taking a year away from football and finding a job in medical sales, Burns was drawn back into coaching by Malzahn as part of his inaugural staff at Arkansas State, four hours east of Burns’ hometown. Burns is joined by offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, offensive line coach J.B. Grimes and strength and conditioning director Ryan Russell as Malzahn’s retentions from the Red Wolves.
“It’s a smooth transition because we know each other now,” Burns said. “We’ve got great chemistry together from that year at Arkansas State, and now coming back home I’m familiar with coach Malzahn, it’s just a really good feeling to be back.”
Burns was engaged to his four-year girlfriend, Keista Hough, on Feb. 16. He chuckled as he told the story of meeting Hough when both were Auburn students – after exchanging numbers outside a downtown bar and restaurant, Hough didn’t return Burns’ affection for two months.
But Burns was persistent, and got the girl. Now he’s got the SEC apprenticeship, with hopes it launches a lengthy career.
“I think my long-term goals are the same as anybody’s – you want to do this, and you want to move up,” Burns said. “I want to be an offensive coordinator one of these days here pretty quick, and soon after be a head coach.”