Freddie Burden doesn’t know what would have happened had he not gotten a call to join an NFL team this weekend. Maybe he would have reached out to CFL teams, the center said, “see if I could get back on the field and get some film.”
The Georgia Tech fan favorite does not have to worry about that what if because a call did come. After a year of hoping and trying to get a shot with an NFL team, Burden has one, courtesy of the Cleveland Browns. About 20 minutes after the draft ended Saturday, Burden’s agent Ryan Rubin called him and informed him that Cleveland wanted him to come to their rookie mini-camp for a tryout.
“I just dropped to my knees and started thanking God,” Burden told the AJC Sunday. “It’s just such a blessing. It’s all I could ask for. Being in the situation I’ve been in the past year, I had to give all the glory to God.”
A year ago, Burden was hoping for his chance, either in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. However, he was still recovering from a broken ankle suffered in Tech’s bowl game win and didn’t get a chance to work out for scouts.
He chose to continue to pursue the dream. He had two private workouts with the Indianapolis Colts and the Detroit Lions before training camp began, but he wasn’t signed. Detroit worked him out again in December, he said, with the possibility of adding him to the practice squad and then to its 90-man offseason roster, but it didn’t work out.
The same thing happened with the New York Giants a couple weeks after the second workout with the Lions.
Not being able to get on a roster, particularly in January when the rosters expand, caused him to wonder if it was ever going to happen. But he kept going, supported by his faith, family, friends and Rubin.
“I just knew that there was going to be something, hopefully,” Burden said. “I just took my faith and ran with it.”
Over that time, Burden has been working out with GATA in Johns Creek, doing lifting and conditioning and also football drill work with former Falcons offensive lineman Todd Weiner. He has also been working at Barton Executive Search, whose staff includes three former Tech athletes, Ismail Muhammad, Deon Hill and Omoregie Uzzi.
Burden took part in Tech’s pro day in April, at which point he could have been signed as a street free agent, but nothing materialized. But, going into draft weekend, Rubin told him that he would make calls and see if something might happen.
Burden was in Orlando, Fla., when the call came. He’ll go to Cleveland later this week for the three-day rookie mini-camp.
There, he may well be snapping to the first overall pick in the draft, Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Burden dared dream that the two might have a future together.
“It’ll be good if we can get in the same class and get some years in together and just do this thing,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”
The odds are long. Two years ago, the Browns brought in 14 tryout players to their rookie mini-camp and signed one. Last year, it was two out of 17. Of the three, one lasted just two days. Neither of the other two made the regular-season roster.
But, after a year of waiting, it’s all he wants.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve just got to make the most of it.”
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com