Burks, who has spent the past several years coaching on the high school and collegiate levels after wrapping up a successful playing career, is the new head football coach at LaFayette High in Alabama.
For the past two seasons, Burks has been the wide receivers coach at his alma matter, LaGrange High School, and he felt the time was right to take the leap into the world of head coaching.
“I’m at a point in my career where the opportunity came, and I wanted to explore it and see if this is something I really want to do for the for the rest of my life,” Burks said.
Burks is taking over for Steve Coker, who went 5-5 in 2012 and had an overall record of 13-18.
After an extensive search that included more than 80 applicants, Burks was the choice to lead the Lafayette football program.
Chambers County schools superintendent Kelli Hodge said Burks was an easy pick, partly because of his resume as a player and a coach, but more so because he’ll be a great leader and role model for the players.
“Coach Burks has a variety of high school, college and pro experience,” Hodge told the newspaper in Opelika. “But when we sat down and really had a conversation with him in the interview, his character and his desire to instill that character in the boys was just at the forefront of everything that he had to say and everything that he demonstrated to us.”
Burks said he’s grateful for Hodge and others in the community showing this level of confidence in him.
“I appreciate them giving me an opportunity to do this,” Burks said. “I know they’re going to get tired of me telling them thank you, but I’m going to tell them anyway.”
Burks said he’s been pleased with the reception he’s received so far.
“Just walking through the school, the guys are excited and ready to go,” he said. “From what I’m hearing in the community, they’re ready.”
While Burks will be a newcomer to Lafayette, he isn’t entirely unfamiliar with the area.
While he was an assistant coach at LaGrange College, Lafayette High was a part of the area he recruited.
“When I was at the college, I had the opportunity to scout their school,” Burks said. “I’ve had a chance to see what was there. Now, an opening came up. It’s not far from home where I have to uproot my family and everything. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to do what I want to do. The situation presented itself, and it was right there for me.”
The next step for Burks will be to get to know the players, and to put together a coaching staff.
Burks said he’ll rely heavily on the coaches who have been there.
“Those guys are eager to learn and want what’s best for the program,” Burks said. “I’ll be learning as well, because I don’t know one single player. It’s going to be a vice-versa deal.”
Burks brings plenty of experience, as a player and a coach, to his new job.
After enjoying a standout career at LaGrange High, he played wide receiver at Eastern Kentucky for four seasons before embarking on a professional career that carried him all across the world.
He began his playing career in NFL Europe where he spent two seasons, and Burks was on a handful of NFL rosters over the course of five seasons before spending one season in the now defunct XFL in 2001.
Burks then made the transition to the Arena Football League where he really made his mark.
In six seasons, Burks had nearly 400 catches, including the 2003 season when he had a franchise-record 102 catches and 28 touchdowns for the Dallas Desperados.
After his playing career ended, Burks turned his attention to coaching, and he was a coach at LaGrange College and Troup High before he was hired at LaGrange High before the 2011 season.
While at LaGrange High as the wide receivers coach, he helped Dee Smith become the most prolific pass catcher in school history.
“I played there, and had the opportunity to come back and coach there,” Burks said of LaGrange High. “Everywhere I went when I played, I always kept in touch. Even though I’m going across the water or what not, LaGrange is still going to be in my heart.”
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch, who hired Burks, said “it’s a huge loss for us.”
“He just does a phenomenal job,” Branch said. “I think he’s definite head-coaching material.”
Branch said when he brought Burks aboard, that he knew he would be a head coach at some point, and he wanted to try to help prepare him for that.
“I gave him some extra duties and responsibilities outside of being an assistant coach,” Branch said. “I gave him some things that would help him be more ready when the opportunity game. I’m not shocked that he got a head-coaching job. He’s a good candidate.”
Burks hopes his career serves as motivation for his players to dream big.
“They look at me and see that coach has played college ball, and he’s been overseas and here and there playing pro football,” Burks said. “And he’s from a town not too far from where we are. If he can do it, I possibly can do it.
“That’s what I want to instill in those guys that the opportunity is out there, the world is big. It’s not just Lafayette, Ala. Or LaGrange, Ga. Go out and see the world.”
As for his approach to the job, Burks said it’ll be the same as it has been for everywhere he’s been.
“This is what I’ve been doing for the past 20-plus years,” Burks said. “It’s game day every day. You come to work and do your job. That’s what I’m going to do to the best of my ability.”