Kodi Burns' sacrifice has endured

Just think what Kodi Burns would have missed.

He has, which only reinforces to him that he made the right decision last preseason when the Auburn coaches first broached the subject of his moving from quarterback to receiver.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Burns, who started in seven games at quarterback during the 2008 season. “There were some other schools who wanted me to come there and play quarterback, and I could have taken, I guess, what you would call the easy way out and transferred. But I stuck it out, and look at me now.

“We’re playing for the SEC championship and hopefully more.”

If you’re into statistics, Burns’ move hasn’t had a profound impact on the Tigers. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound senior has 10 catches this season without a touchdown.

But if you’re into team chemistry, sacrificing for the good of the team and being what they refer to around the Plains as “an Auburn man,” then what Burns did last preseason, and more importantly, the way he did it, has meant everything to an Auburn team just one win away from playing for its first national championship since 1957.

In many ways, Burns has embodied the spirit of this team.

Four different times this season, Auburn has trailed by two touchdowns or more, including a 24-0 deficit last week at Alabama, but the Tigers have overcome those deficits each time and found a way to win.

It was the same way for Burns, whose heart was admittedly broken when he was asked to switch positions. But he wasn’t going to do anything that might break the team, especially with Gene Chizik and the rest of the staff just getting started.

So Burns stood up in the locker room, took a deep breath, and told his teammates that he was willing to do whatever he could to help Auburn win football games.

If that meant giving up his dream of playing quarterback, so be it.

“I looked everybody in the eye as a man and said, ‘Yes, I’m obviously hurt, and it’s painful, but you’re not going to see me going around and stirring it up in the locker room and I hope nobody else in here will, either,’ ” Burns recounted. “I just emphasized to them that we needed to stay together as a team.

“It was about winning, about Auburn, about championships, and I think everybody really bought in. We had a pretty good year last year, and those same guys who were on that team and heard that speech are on the team this year.”

Burns has practiced what he’s preached.

In addition to starting all 12 games at receiver this season, he went to the coaches about being on special teams and became a starter on the kickoff and punt return teams.

“I’m just trying to help the team win any way I can, and obviously special teams are important,” said Burns, who has a touchdown run this season and also threw a touchdown pass to Cam Newton in the Ole Miss game.

“I figure if the younger guys see me, a senior who used to be the quarterback here, busting it out there, that they’re gong to do the same.”

As this season has progressed for the No. 1 Tigers, nobody has lost sight of what Burns’ sacrifice has meant.

“That’s one guy who won’t leave here with any regrets,” Chizik said. “He’s one of those guys that, when you look back at it, is going to be a success story for a lot of guys after this.”

Perhaps so, but all Burns is focused on right now is doing his part to make sure the Tigers finish out this season the right way.

“It’s been a bumpy road for me with a lot of ups and downs,” Burns said. “But I’m proud of the way it’s turned out for all of us. We’ve bounced back as a program these last two years, and I really believe we’re going to see this thing out to the end.”