This week I spoke with new offensive lineman Dustin Burns, who joined the Lions in April, about how the pandemic affected his football career, what he expects in this upcoming season and where he sees himself playing on the line.

Just double checking my research, you graduated from Northwestern State in 2019, is that correct?

A. So I graduated in 2018, with my bachelor's degree in pre-med biology, and then recently graduated last week with my Master's in sports administration.

In that case then when did your football career officially end with Northwestern State?

A. In 2019, but like I said, I started my master's program last spring and then that fall semester while still playing football I was doing my Master’s.

So with your playing career coming to an end in 2019, how was it ending your career right when a global pandemic began?

A. It was tough because I did have an opportunity to go play overseas, in France, with the Nice Dauphins, and I was getting ready to go. I had my bags packed and everything and then I got called two days before I was supposed to leave and they say, “Hey, we can't go. We don’t even know if we’re gonna have a season. France is still in lockdown.” So still having those opportunities from multiple places still being pulled from COVID? It was tough. For sure.

I know you got your Master's during that time, but what did you do to stay focused and prepared on the football side of things with everything being shut down?

A. It was tough. I was kind of unsure if I was gonna, like, get the opportunity to play again. But, they always say trust the process and I was still, I was training as much as I could, with all the lockdowns and everything. Working out, running drills and stuff. Just really just trying to stay in it and keep my options open, my mind open to see if I was gonna  get the opportunity to play again.

I know you said you had an opportunity in France so how did the Columbus Lions get your attention, and why did you come this way?

A. That's a funny story. So a buddy of mine that I train with is also signed with the Lions, Brent Bailey. We were out training in Fort Worth for our pro days and the draft prep and that sort of stuff and when everything fell through with France, I had to do an internship to finish my degree plan with Northwestern. I called him(Brent) because I knew he was still at Tarleton, working for the strength conditioning program there, and he actually got me in with an internship. And Coach Johnson called Brent and asked if he wanted to play and if he knew any offensive linemen that wanted to play and I was sitting in the other room. So he was like “absolutely, I know a guy.” So coach Johnson hit me up and, and the rest is history. I’m coming to Georgia.

You played a mix of different lineman positions while you were at Northwestern State, and now you are here in Columbus, do you have a specific position you will be playing?

A. Coach Johnson is talking to me about playing both center and guard, which is not anything new to me. Really, I'll play wherever I need to play. Whatever gets me on the field the most, helps the team win, I'm okay with any of that.

You have been out of football for almost a year and a half at this point and you report to camp this Sunday, so what are you looking forward to most about finally returning to the field after all this time?

A. So you say out of football, yeah, I haven't played in a year and a half,  but I've been a volunteer coach at a high school. When I was in my internship at Tarleton State, I was around the football guys a bunch. So yeah, I haven't played in a year and a half, but I've still been around it this past year and a half. But the thing that I'm most looking forward to is having that bond with my teammates and just being on a team again. That’s something you miss when you're around football, but you're not the main focus, like nobody really cares about you like you're actually playing, if that makes sense.

With camp only a few days away, Burns is looking at a second chance that he was not sure would ever happen. The young lineman is eager to return to the gridiron and take advantage of this second chance and he could prove valuable for the Lions as a cornerstone of the offensive line this season.


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