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Trey Burton: A Different Type Of Player

Posted May 31, 2014

Linebacker Connor Barwin is known as the "Jack" (as in Jack of all trades) of the Eagles defense because of his unique ability to do a number of different things at a high level. He can rush the passer, set the edge on run plays or drop into coverage on any given play and he can do all of those things well.

Shortly after last month’s NFL Draft came to its conclusion, the Eagles added a player who can potentially fill a similar role on the offensive side of the ball. Rookie free agent Trey Burton may be officially listed as a tight end, but that’s only because there’s not enough room to write "Swiss Army Knife" next to his name on the 90-man roster.

"I’m a different player," Burton said. "I don’t play just one position, I play a bunch of different positions, and I feel like the Eagles can use me in a really good way and I think that I can benefit the offense."

It’s no secret that general manager Howie Roseman, head coach Chip Kelly and the rest of the Eagles front office place a great amount of value on a player’s versatility. Recent additions such as Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins are two excellent examples of the versatile kinds of players that the Eagles covet, but the list of names goes on and on.

The Eagles are looking to build and develop a roster of well-rounded players who can provide value in more than one aspect of the game, and Burton fits that bill. In 50 games with the Florida Gators, the 6-foot-2, 224-pound Burton lined up at quarterback, fullback, running back, tight end and wide receiver. Over the course of four seasons, he compiled 720 rushing yards and 976 passing yards, finding the end zone a total of 20 times.

He arrived in Gainesville, Fla. as an all-state high school quarterback, but the coaching staff quickly realized that his talent exceeded the limitations of playing just one position.

"My freshman year, we were in the second week of camp and John Brantley was the starting quarterback, and I came in as a quarterback," Burton explained. "(then-Florida head coach) Urban Meyer walked into our quarterback meeting room and said, ‘You’re too athletic to be sitting on the bench.’ He basically said that he wanted me to do this, this and this, and I started to do it."

Burton’s transformation from quarterback to playmaker came with some bumps along the way, but as the 22-year-old now begins his NFL career, he’s glad that he was pushed to be the best possible player.

"There are a bunch of guys in the NFL who are versatile and can do a lot of things and I think that is what the game is moving towards," Burton said. "At first (the transition) was tough. The toughest part was probably practice, because when you’re a quarterback, you never, ever get hit in practice. Practicing everyday and being physical and things like that were tough for me at first, but I definitely love where I’m at right now."

Of course, Burton is now dealing with another transition - taking his game from the college ranks to the professional level. As is the case for most rookies, Burton admits that it is a challenge to become accustomed to the pace of the NFL game, especially with the way the Eagles play and practice.

"This offense is so fast, it’s unbelievable," Burton said. "You run the play and then they’re blowing the whistle and the next thing you know, you’re looking over to the sidelines because they’re signaling the plays already. That’s probably been the biggest adjustment for me is just the speed and how fast the offense operates."

Fortunately for the young tight end, one of the veterans in his position group has taken him under his wing, showing him the ropes during his first few practices with the team.

"The guy who has helped me out the most is James Casey," Burton said. "He’s been unbelievable for me and all the other rookies. He’s always been there to answer all of the questions that we have, and he’s a really funny dude, so he definitely lightens up the mood in the meeting rooms and around the locker room."

With Kelly pulling the strings, there’s no telling how many different ways that Burton might be used in the Eagles offense. Could Eagles fans even see him attempt a pass or two?

"I don’t know," Burton laughed. "If that’s what Coach Kelly wants me to do, then I’m all for it. I’m open to whatever they have planned for me. Obviously, I’m not the brains of this operation, so if that’s what they want me to do, that’s what I’ll do. I just want to put my best foot forward and make the team."

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