Aug 19, 2013
Video: This is how you do it: When Kodi Burns told his teammates to rally around Chris Todd
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- He became a fan favorite long before he caught a touchdown pass in the 2010 BCS title game and long before he was selected to present an Auburn jersey to President Obama as part of a national title celebration at the White House.
Kodi Burns became a fan favorite for a selfless act, when he stepped aside in the 2009 quarterback race, moved to receiver and told his teammates to rally around Chris Todd.
"It was tough, but at the same time, I really had to make a decision to be a man," Burns says. "I could have transferred and played at many places, which was fine, but I loved Auburn and realized it was about education first and foremost, and just being an example for my team."
Burns, now an Auburn graduate assistant coach, lived through a deja vu moment last week. Kiehl Frazier, who started five games at quarterback last season, was moved to defensive back when it became clear others had moved ahead of him on offense.
Burns offered Frazier insight like few could, since both grew up in Arkansas knowing of Gus Malzahn's offense exploits, both signing with Auburn, both moving from quarterback.
"I told him I understand: 'You've been the 'guy' your whole life,'" Burns said. "It's how you play the cards you're dealt with. You might not want the cards you've got, but you have to play them. I talked to him and I was here for him.
"I wouldn't say the pressure is off of him, but he was relieved knowing he could contribute at a position without the uncertainty of being that 'guy' or not. It's 'I think he can help this football team.' He's a tremendous athlete."
Frazier, like Burns, said he didn't consider transferring.
"I love Auburn. I love the coaching staff. I love the fans. I love my teammates," he said.
Burns carried no hard feelings for Malzahn, then Auburn's offensive coordinator. He served as a graduate assistant for him in 2012 at Arkansas State in 2012 and returned to Auburn with him for the 2013 season.
Frazier, like Burns, said he found comfort in the coaching.
"I know the coaches really have our backs and they love us and they want what's best for us," Frazier said.
Malzahn said he was "Very proud of Kiehl Frazier. He's a winner. He's a class act. He's a team-first guy.
"I'm very happy for him. He's going to make our team better. He will make us better in the long run."
Frazier talked to Burns, who told him "just make the best out of any situation. Do what you want to do. Football isn't forever -- what I'm doing right now is what I'm getting my education in. It's something I feel like I can do well in. Whatever I do, do it to the fullest."
The coaching staff didn't waste time in practicing Frazier on defense, and extensively, too. Burns was moved to receiver on a fast track, too, and was selfless in that position, often doing a lot of downfield blocking.
He went out the right way scoring a touchdown against Oregon in the BCS title game.
Burns said the move from quarterback to receiver wasn't easy, but he knew how he would handle it.
"It was tough, but being raised the way I was, I handled it the best way I knew," Burns said. "Whether you think you did better or worse or whether you think you're the best one or not, it really doesn't matter. The decision was made."
And like Frazier, he was asked to change positions.
"It was not to even leave me at the No. 2 quarterback and that was somewhat devastating after winning the MVP of the bowl game and then starting half the games your freshman year and most of the games your sophomore year," Burns said. "I talked to Chette Williams because I was hurt. That's all I knew. I had played quarterback my whole life. I've had the ball in my hand ever since I was 4 of 5. I always had the ball in my hand every play and controlled every play and loved the pressure being on me. But I realized all that had been changed. It was hard, but, at the same time, I had to be a man and take a step forward and be a captain of that team.
"The other guy, Chris Todd, was our quarterback, and everybody had to get behind him, and I was behind him first and foremost."
Kodi Burns made the move and won a national title.
"I hear a lot about being selfless and what I meant to the team," Burns said. "Whether I deserved that or not, I was just small piece on a really good team."
Coach Kodi Burns, in 2013, with Auburn (Todd Van Emst photo)
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine