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'Go where your heart is': Kodi Burns at home in Auburn
Feb. 16, 2016

Kodi Burns, then as an Auburn graduate assistant, now as the Tigers' receivers coach
Kodi Burns, then as an Auburn graduate assistant, now as the Tigers' receivers coach

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. ― Kodi Burns, having grown up in Gus Malzahn's world of hurry-up everything, knew he'd be put to the test quickly as Auburn's new receivers coach.

But so soon?

"I got hired and it was, 'We start practice in two weeks.' I'm, 'Wow.' But that's exciting," Burns said Tuesday. "That's why you're doing it: To be coaching on the field with your guys and developing talent."

Auburn announced Monday that Burns had replaced Dameyune Craig, who left for LSU, as the Tigers' receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. It was a natural fit for Malzahn, the head coach, and Burns, his former player who also served as his graduate assistant at Arkansas State and Auburn.

Burns was hired at Arizona State last month, but when Malzahn called, he had to listen. Burns, just 27 and just three years removed as an Auburn graduate assistant, said he called his family.

"They were kind of in awe, that things were really happening this quick," Burns said. "They figured, 'You'll go back to Auburn at some point in your career, but this soon?' But it's a blessing to come back and be part of the staff, and to be part of the guys I started with in this business in Coach Malzahn and Coach Lashlee."

Burns won his place in the hearts of Auburn fans when he selflessly moved from quarterback to receiver in 2009 so Chris Todd could start. He solidified his place at Auburn when he scored a touchdown in the BCS title game in 2010 on a pass thrown from Cam Newton.

It was Burns, as a team leader, who presented President Obama with an Auburn jersey when the Tigers were honored at the White House after winning the national championship.

Malzahn also remembers the team guy who didn't mind blocking when he gave him his first coaching job as a graduate assistant at Arkansas State in 2012. Burns followed Malzahn to Auburn in 2013, and moved on to full-time coaching positons at Samford and Middle Tennessee State and was still on the fast track when he was hired at Arizona State.

"That was tough to tell them I was leaving, but you have to go where your heart is," Burns said. "You want to come home, that you want to be a part of this staff. But also you just committed to that staff, but coaching is a crazy business. There are some tough decisions you have to make, and it was a tough decision because of the people on both sides. But at the end of the day, this is the place I wanted to be."

Then word spread he was returning to Auburn.

"My cell phone was blowing up as you can only imagine. Everybody has been congratulating me," Burns said.

Burns was working at his desk Tuesday.

"I was a graduate assistant not that long ago, so I know the grind," he said. "I understand about working really hard and not really making any money. That keeps you humble. I've always been a humble person. The move up is great, but at the end of the day, I'm still going to work hard, develop kids and recruit, and win here."
Burns won't need a crash course in what Malzahn expects, even with spring practice on the horizon.

"The thing with coming back here is I knew exactly what I was getting into," Burns said. "I know exactly how Coach Malzahn works. It's going to be a very easy transition."

Burns made inroads in his short coaching career. He coached running backs at Samford when Denzel Williams had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards. He coached receivers at Middle Tennessee State where Richie James was a freshman All-American and a Top 10 receiver in the nation last season.

"I've been really fortunate to be around really good players," Burns said. "Being at Arkansas State helping win the first bowl game in their history, and coming back here in 2013 and helping take a team that had been 3-9 to the national championship game was exciting.

"I went to Samford and we had a guy, who had really never played running back in college, who was a first-team all-conference performer. And then go to Middle Tennessee the next year and have Richie James, who was unbelievable."

Burns said he liked the feel of Arizona State, too. But when Auburn called, he answered.

"Whenever you're talking about coming back home and coaching a position you played there, and the passion for the school, it just seemed like a no-brainer for me to come back and try to make a difference," Burns said. "That's why I'm here."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:


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