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Matt Burke: The most interesting run game coordinator/defensive line coach in the world

He graduated from an Ivy League school. He proposed to his wife while hiking with gorillas in Uganda. He once called a literal storage closet his office.

He is the most interesting run game coordinator/defensive line coach in the world.

He is Matt Burke.

Yes, the title of being the most interesting run game coordinator/defensive line coach in the world is long and rather specific, but how many other NFL coaches have traveled to an estimated 40 countries and nearly attended medical school?

But what is also quite interesting is Burke's journey to this point in his career. It is a journey that began in his hometown of Hudson, Massachusetts.

His interest in coaching began at Dartmouth College, where he walked onto the school's football team and was a member of an undefeated Ivy League Championship squad in 1996.

Burke's Ivy League education could feasibly take him anywhere he wanted in life, but he felt like his life lacked a real sense of direction. Medical school was an option, but his desire to study game film overtook his desire to study X-rays and lab results.

He began his coaching career at an all-boys prep school (Bridgton Academy) in Maine before becoming a graduate assistant at Boston College, where he earned his master's. He may have had a burgeoning career as a coach, but his parents were a little worried, as a career in coaching was not what they expected when they sent their son to an Ivy League institution.

Burke, insistent that coaching was indeed the path for him, had to become a salesman of sorts, selling his parents on the pursuit of his dream job. It took a while for them to buy in, but they eventually did.

"I had sort of a five-year plan in mind, trying to play that game, and it ended up being about a three-year plan and got a shot in the NFL," Burke said.

Burke's shot in the NFL came after a simple phone call. At the time, he had since returned to the Ivy League to be the assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach at Harvard. The call itself went to Harvard Head Coach Tim Murphy, who was asked if he knew of any young, smart, and hungry people interested in a quality control position with the Tennessee Titans.

Murphy said yes, and recommended Burke.

"Hey, I got a call from the Titans," Murphy told Burke. "They're interested in possibly talking to you."

Burke eventually got a call from someone with the Titans. That someone was none other than Jim Schwartz, who was the team's defensive coordinator at the time.

Schwartz liked what Burke brought to the table but was so wrapped up in NFL Draft prep that he was unable to meet with Burke in person. Schwartz instructed Burke to hang tight until after the draft and the two would discuss things further.

Burke, only 26 years old and understandably anxious about the opportunity, quickly faxed multiple copies of his resume to Schwartz.

He also began reaching out to anyone he knew who could potentially have a connection to Schwartz so they could put in a good word for him. Burke's persistence caught Schwartz's attention, but not quite in the way he originally intended.

"Hey, I thought I told you to wait after the draft. We're a little busy here," Schwartz told Burke. "Yeah, I got your seven copies of the resume. Thanks for that. Every time I pick up the phone, someone's talking about you."

Schwartz's response sent Burke into an immediate panic.

"Oh, I blew it! He's mad at me," he thought.

Schwartz must not have been that angry, as a week after the draft, Burke visited the Titans and was offered the position. Burke was on top of the world. He wasn't even 30 years old and was already in the NFL, but the reality was that he still many dues to pay.

There were a lot of long days, a lot of long nights, a lot of naps in the office, which was just a storage closet with a desk in it. He made an hourly wage that paid him $30,000 per year, causing him to struggle to pay off his student loan debt. It took a while, but he was finally able to pay it once he received his first playoff bonus after the 2007 season.

"You can never manufacture that break," Burke said. "I could never have set up a situation where Jim Schwartz called Harvard and I was there, but my philosophy until this day is I'm going to work hard and do a really good job and try to be the best coach I can in the position I'm in."

Schwartz noticed Burke's work ethic and brought him onto his staff as a linebackers coach when he became head coach of the Detroit Lions. After five seasons with the Lions, Burke went to Cincinnati (linebackers coach 2014-15) and Miami (linebacker coach, 2016, defensive coordinator in 2017-18) before reuniting with Schwartz. Burke is eager to tackle his latest challenge in Philadelphia after a year with the Eagles as the team's defensive special assistant. Like Burke himself, this challenge is quite interesting, as he is tasked with getting the most out of a defensive line that features a good mix of veteran leadership and young talent.

But an interesting challenge is nothing new for the man that has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and hiked in Botswana. It is just the latest chapter Matt Burke, the most interesting run game coordinator/defensive line coach in the world.

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