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#TGW: Fighting His Way Back

March 6, 2018

Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

Freddie Burden has been there but hasn’t been able to do all that. What he wasn’t able to do was all that typically goes into Georgia Tech’s Pro Day last year, so he’s looking forward to returning to The Flats to audition for the NFL next week.

Eleven former Yellow Jackets who finished their eligibility last fall will run, jump, lift weights, throw and catch and go through drills before, NFL scouts, coaches and front office executives Friday, March 16 in the John and Mary Brock Indoor Practice Facility.

Burden will be a notable 12th man.

He wrapped up his stellar Tech career a year earlier, but the decorated center broke his ankle in his final game as the Jackets were beating Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. That limited what he was able to do about 10 weeks later on Pro Day.

So, he’s coming back for more, preparing to join former Georgia Tech defensive backs Corey Griffin, Step Durham and Lance and Lawrence Austin, guard Shamire Devine, linebacker Terrell Lewis, defensive linemen KeShun Freeman and Antonio Simmons, wide receivers Ricky Jeune and Antonio Messick and running back J.J. Greene.

“I just did the bench press and took all the measurements,” said Burden, who started 38-of-39 games over his final three seasons at Tech — all in tandem with former quarterback Justin Thomas. “I couldn’t do anything right after the season because I was injured. I talked to some teams, and they said call me when you’re healthy . . . I knew I wanted to do pro day to show each team what I could do.”

Actually, this Pro Day won’t mark a return to Tech for Burden; he’s been around quite a bit.

The 6-foot-3.5, 305-pound Statesboro native graduated in May, 2016 with a degree in business administration, and played that fall as a graduate student while interning at Barton Executive Search. While rehabbing this time last year, he frequently worked out at Tech and attended every home football game last fall while continuing to work out.

Eventually, he sent video of himself working out to NFL teams and gained an audience with a few.

“I talked to the Colts in late June and worked out for the Lions in late July,” Burden said. “I didn’t hear anything after that, and then I got a call from the Lions on Dec. 1, which was promising. I thought I was going to have a futures contract with them. I had a workout later with the Giants.

“Each team is a little different. Some had me run a 40, and do some offensive line position work. The workouts usually aren’t long. They just want to see how you move.”

Burden was long the man in the middle of Georgia Tech’s offense, and he landed there after a delay similar to what he’s experienced since his final game with the Jackets.

After a standout career at Statesboro High as a tight end, he was converted to the offensive line and redshirted in 2012. Then, he missed the entire `13 season with a knee injury.

From there, he started all 14 games in `14, helping pave the way for an offense that set school records for total yards (6,671), rushing yards (4,789), rushing yards per game (342.1) and points (530) as the Jackets went 11-3 while beating Georgia and Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.

Burden started all 12 games in `15, when he and Trey Braun were the only linemen to start every game, and then in `16 had a streak of 35 consecutive starts broken when he and Thomas both missed the Yellow Jackets’ upset win at Virginia Tech with injuries.

He was tabbed first team all-ACC by after his final season. Earlier in his decorated career, he earned third-team all-conference honors in `15 and was an honorable-mention selection in ’14.

As last summer turned to fall, “My old boss, Tim Barton, reached out to me and said I could work. I had interned at Barton in college at the end of junior year. It was around September of last year he called me and . . . I’ve always been part-time.”

In recent months, Burden has been training at the Goldin Athletic Training Association in Johns Creek. Former Jacket Shaq Mason prepared himself for his Pro Day and the NFL Combine at GATA, and Burden sees familiar faces on a regular basis.

Simmons is working out there and so is former Duke defensive lineman Mike Ramsey, among several other aspiring players from the ACC, SEC and other conferences.

“We work on a lot of things. Nobody really runs the stuff we ran in college, and I’ve lost my technique from the triple-option standpoint, but I’ve acquired other techniques,” Burden explained. “There are some guys who are in the NFL and guys that are training for Combine and Pro Days.

“I’ve worked with a lot of the defensive linemen on pass protection. It’s kind of like iron sharpening iron.”

Burden stays in contact with many of his former Tech teammates, and he wants to establish more contact with NFL teams. He’s not eligible for the draft.

“After last year, I can only sign free agent,” he explained. “Somebody could sign me after Pro Day. Hopefully, somebody will invite me to camp.”


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