As part of his goal to grow bigger and stronger so he can play football for the Auburn Tigers, the walk-on from Vestavia Hills has gained about half a hundred pounds during the past year in Auburn's strength and conditioning program.
Now up to six-feet, two inches tall and weighing right at 280 pounds, Burgess could enter the 2010 season as the number two center on Auburn's depth chart behind returning starter Ryan Pugh, a senior.
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has consistently praised Burgess for his work ethic and improvement on the field. Even the head coach, Gene Chizik, has had good things to say about the walk-on who is the grandson of former Jacksonville State University football head coach Bill Burgess, who has his name on the stadium at JSU.
"It's been really exciting this year," Burgess tells inside the Auburn Tigers. "I put on a lot of weight trying to get to that lineman form. I have been really trying to learn the offense and get in some plays."
He arrived last year on campus as an undersized lineman who was an invited walk-on. "I weighed about 230 when I got here so I have gained nearly 50 points," Burgess says.
Blake Burgess is shown during a preseason football practice.
No longer too small to play, Burgess has worked at both center and guard and says he feels like he has made progress. "I know the offense a lot better and the coaches have had a chance to see me play a lot in both the spring and fall practices so I hope to play a little bit, but my main goal for the season is to just travel and be a part of the team."
Burgess is currently focusing on playing center. "I am working to know guard," he says. "I haven't gotten as many guard reps in the fall as center, but I did work a lot at guard during the spring so Coach wants me to know both positions."
Working with the "blue squad," which is the second stringers behind Pugh who is on the "orange squad," Burgess says that Pugh, who has been a starter for the Tigers the past three years, has been a good teammate. "He will stay after practice and help me with anything I need," Burgess says. "He has been a great leader."
Burgess comes from a football family. "We all enjoy it," he says. "My grandad (Coach and fullback Bill Burgess) played at Auburn and my dad (syndicated radio host Rick Burgess) played at Troy. We all grew up in it and it has been a lot of fun. They fully support me in everything I do. It is."
The lineman says he enjoys having Jeff Grimes as his position coach. "He is a great coach--he really is. He knows so much about the offense and so much about technique. He doesn't lose a step."
Burgess participates in drill during a preseason practice.
As Burgess prepares his team for Saturday's season opener vs. Arkansas State, Chizik points out that the redshirt freshman has been a bright spot for the Tigers. "He is phenomenal young man," the head coach says. "He is nothing but a class act.
"He has put on probably 40 to 50 pounds since he has been here and he has really had a great camp for us," Chizik adds. "I am really, really proud of the progress he has made in one short year. He loves football and is very dedicated to the game and he has been a great addition to our team.
"He has been a guy who has really worked to get to the spot where he is now," Chizik says. "My hat is off to him. You have to give him a lot of credit. He has worked and earned every bit of it.