He’ll have Tom Brady throwing at him, with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line. This weekend’s AFC Championship between Burns’ Pittsburgh Steelers and Brady’s New England Patriots (6:40 p.m. Sunday, CBS) will feature a future Hall of Fame quarterback trying to pick apart Burns, a 21-year-old cornerback and first-round draftee from Miami.
“That’s what he does,” Burns told The Boston Globe. “He’s a savvy vet. That’s what savvy vets do, they go after rookies. I’m prepared for it. It’s a challenge. I’ve just got to be ready.”
Hurricanes fans watching the game may see linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who has had a good second season. He played in 15 games and started seven, making 29 tackles, recording 2.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles. He missed the last three weeks with an ankle injury, but practiced Thursday.
The Patriots have no former UM players on the roster, so there’s another reason for South Florida to root against them.
Former UM punter Matt Bosher is still doing his thing for the Atlanta Falcons, but in the NFC title game ((3:05 p.m. Sunday, Fox), the Green Bay Packers have a few more Canes.
Cornerback Ladarius Gunter has become a starter in his second year (54 tackles, 12 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles). Fellow undrafted free agent Herb Waters is on the active roster, after switching from wide receiver to cornerback to help bolster a Sam Shields-less unit.
Shields, a seven-year vet and full-time starter the last four seasons, missed all but one game in 2016 recovering from a concussion.
He was UM’s leading tackler (44) at the time of his injury. A 6-foot-1, 235-pound native of Stone Mountain, Ga., Kirby started 19 games in a row before that (all 13 in 2014 at weak-side linebacker). He finished his career with 124 career tackles in 39 games.
He was among 51 players named to the preseason watch list for the 2015 Butkus Award, honoring the nation’s top linebacker.
Should he sign with the Lions, he would reunite with his former head coach, Al Golden, who enters his first season as Detroit’s tight ends coach.
This group of Hurricanes rookies is set to earn more than $2.34 million in guaranteed money this season — 99.3 percent of it by drafted players.
According to projections by Spotrac.com, Pittsburgh first-rounder Artie Burns (25th overall) will make $1.744 million cash on a three-year, $9.591 million deal. The top cornerback in the draft, Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey (fifth overall, Jacksonville) pulled down 2.43 times that in guaranteed money ($4.247 million; he signed a deal worth $23.351 million).
Chicago fourth-rounder Deon Bush — whose profile increased greatly after the Bears cut ex-UM safety Antrel Rolle on Sunday, the day after drafting Bush — was handed a check for $581,554. His three-year deal is worth $2.821 million.
The standard contract for an undrafted free agent is for three years and between $1.62 million and $1.64 million. The 445 UDFA rookies in Spotrac’s database as of Monday morning had an average salary between $546,667 and $540,000 (with a handful of outliers on two-year deals).
The guaranteed money, again, is where things differ. The top cash-earner among UDFAs was San Diego State guard Darrell Greene ($105,000 from Philadelphia). By comparison, the last player drafted — Southern Mississippi cornerback Kalan Reed — is set to take home $464,635 off the top.
Cornerback Tracy Howard ($9,000 from Cleveland) and linebacker Tyriq McCord ($7,000 from Pittsburgh) will have something coming whether or not they are cut from rookie camp.
No guaranteed money is listed for wide receiver Rashawn Scott (Miami) and Herb Waters (Green Bay) or defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou (Denver). Defensive tackle Ufomba Kamalu (Houston) has yet to sign.
Spotrac noted Miami’s total draft pick contract value of $12,412,199 ranked 28th among colleges. Ohio State, which had 13 players drafted and five first-rounders, claimed a combined draft pick value of more than $117 million — more than double the next-best school’s total (Notre Dame, $51 million).
Shortly after the draft ended, cornerback Tracy Howardsaid via text message he was heading to the Cleveland Browns. Howard (5-11, 183) was a five-star signee in 2012 who didn’t have a standout college career; once rated as the No. 1 cornerback recruit in high school, he finished with five career interceptions. Howard looked significantly faster and smoother in his Pro Day workout, however, so that bodes well for him. He’ll reunite with Duke Johnson in Cleveland.
Ufomba Kamalu has an opportunity with the Houston Texans, and fellow defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou is heading to the Denver Broncos. Both of those transactions were reported by Jacksonville beat writer Mike Kaye.
Wide receiver Herb Waters said via text message he is heading to the Green Bay Packers. In camp, he will likely practice against former Hurricanes quarterbacks Sam Shields and Ladarius Gunter and may catch passes from ex-UM quarterback Ryan Williams.
The agent for linebacker Tyriq McCord said in a text McCord will join the Pittsburgh Steelers (where Burns became a first-round draft pick on Thursday and ex-teammate Anthony Chickillo is in his second year). The National Football Post reported McCord earned a $7,000 signing bonus.
Wide receiver Rashawn Scott will stay local, signing with the Miami Dolphins. Scott is from Melbourne.
Remaining Miami undrafted free agents include linebacker Raphael Kirby and running back Dallas Crawford.
Miami’s total of two draftees ties 2013, 1998, 1996 and 1994 as the second-lowest total in UM’s NCAA-best 42-year streak of producing at least one pick. UM sent one player to the draft in 2009 and 1980.
Former Hurricanes receiver Allen Hurns, now one of the top young pass-catchers in the league, had a post-draft message for all his fellow non-draftees:
To all the undrafted fellas I FEEL YOUR PAIN. It will be an non-stop grind but gotta make the most of your opportunities. Rise above #faith
Speaking after he attended UM’s Pro Day, Hurns said he was proud to be an example to those who didn’t hear their names called on the big stage.
“It feels good, just being able to be in this position to motivate those guys,” he said. “It’s very humbling. The main thing I tell them is to stay patient and always keep your faith up. Things may happen and you may get frustrated, but things are going to turn out. Always have that faith that things are going to get better. No matter the situation, never let anybody limit you.
“As far as me, my situation itself I think speaks volumes to those guys. I went undrafted. I started making plays from day 1. They see the work that I put in and keeping that faith that I can play this game and nobody can tell me any different.”
When Deon Bush woke up Saturday morning, he was almost certain he would be drafted. He also had a feeling where he might go. So he rolled out of bed and put on a Chicago Bears T-shirt, navy blue with a “C” logo in the middle and “CHICAGO” across the top.
After 1:30 p.m., with friends and family shouting and dancing around him, it was confirmed: he was perfectly dressed for the occasion.
The Bears drafted Bush, a safety from UM, with the 124th overall pick in the fourth round. He joins teammate Artie Burns (25th overall, Pittsburgh Steelers) as the Hurricanes’ 2015 draftees (so far) and will reunite with one of his mentors, Bears safety Antrel Rolle, in Chicago.
“It’s feeling so good, man,” Bush said by phone, as his family buzzed around him in their West Perrine home. “The anxiety of waiting, not knowing what’s going to happen … that’s all over. I’m just so thankful, so happy.”
So why did Bush choose that particular attire? He happened to grab the shirt at the NFL combine, at which teams offered the participants some take-home gear. He just liked it because it was navy blue.
“I didn’t know what it was,” Bush said. “I put it in my bag. When I got to the hotel I looked and saw it was a Chicago Bears shirt.”
Since he had a good feeling about it Saturday morning – the Bears told him going in that if he was there when they needed a safety, they would pick him, and they didn’t take a safety in the first three rounds – he decided to wear it. If they didn’t take him, he could change quickly. No matter, though. When the phone call came, “I just looked at my family and tapped my shirt,” Bush said. “They saw me and started screaming.”
“I’m just so thankful for the opportunity. Chicago, man,” he said. “I’m not going to let them down. They told me they liked me as a player and they feel they can round me up and help me become the player they know I can be. I know I’ve got a lot to improve. I’m just going to hit the ground running and work hard.”
In addition to his excitement over learning from Rolle (former UM punter Pat O’Donnell also plays there), Bush said he was enamored with Chicago’s tradition of defense – “they produce guys like Brian Urlacher that we grew up watching, the tops at their positions” – and the city itself. “It’s a great city. The Windy City,” he said.
Once he gets there, he’ll buy some new winter clothing. Until then, he’s got a new favorite T-shirt.
DEON BUSH MIAMI 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, S
Deon Bush was the 26th pick in the fourth round (No. 124 overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
Bush, a West Perrine native who played at Miami-Columbus High, had a productive career, registering 168 tackles (10 for loss, five sacks) in 45 career games (32 starts). He also forced nine fumbles, recovered three, broke up 14 passes and intercepted four. Like teammate Artie Burns, he is driven to help his family (he told the Post recently his father is doing well).
Bush struggled early in his career with injuries due in part to a combination of aggressive play and subpar technique, but developed into a solid, healthy contributor as a senior. He liked the big hit, which led to a targeting penalty and subsequent half-game suspension in October. Scouts regard him as a good athlete who lacks elite speed but strikes well. NFL.com, which projected him to be drafted in Rounds 5-6, considers him a special-teamer and backup at best. CBS Sports believed he would be a Round 6 selection.
NFL Combine results:
40-yard-dash: 4.64 seconds
20-yard shuffle: DNP
3-cone-drill: 6.91 seconds (at UM Pro Day)
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches (at UM Pro Day)
Standing long jump: 10 feet, four inches
225-pound bench press: 17 reps
Quote of note:
“Put some horrific tape together this year. His Florida State game was a disaster. I expect him to put some numbers up at the combine that get him drafted earlier than he should be. I think he’s a mid-rounder with very good special teams value but will need to be a backup box safety-type of player early in his career.” – AFC North scout
Secondary concerns: Burns will fit well in his new home. Pittsburgh, which finished 30th in pass defense last season and lost Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin to free agency, needed a cornerback badly. The Steelers, who hadn’t taken a corner in the first round since Chad Scott in 1997, snatched Burns to help defend big-time AFC North receivers like Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. “I try to be the most physical I can be,” Burns said. “Most cornerbacks are stereotyped as being soft, and I don’t like the word ‘soft.’”
Steel City success: In two career games at Heinz Field playing for the Hurricanes, Burns has won twice. He also has two interceptions. He returned one three yards in UM’s win there in 2013, and returned another 19 yards in the final regular-season game of 2015. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who was sold on Burns after attending UM’s Pro Day, noticed him then, too. “He is good at the ball down the field,” Tomlin said. “He has elite speed. We are really excited about him in general. He is a good piece of clay to work with and to mold to get going here in 2016.”
Heinz homies: Burns will reunite with former Miami teammate Anthony Chickillo, a second-year linebacker who played in seven games last year and finished with six tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Chickillo, a sixth-round pick in 2015, spent the first month of the season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster. Burns won’t have to wait that long. Burns also knows wide receiver Eli Rogers (they were teammates at Miami Northwestern High) and linebacker Ryan Shazier (South Florida Express 7-on-7 squad). He faced Rogers (Louisville) and several other Steelers in ACC play. Star receiver Antonio Brown is seven years older, but Burns probably knows who he is; Brown starred at Miami Norland.
He’ll also face off against several former teammates in divisional play, including Cleveland running back Duke Johnson:
Money man: The maximum amount Burns will get in his four-year rookie deal is $9,590,983, which includes a signing bonus of no more than $5,175,260 according to Joel Corry, a former sports agent who write about NFL contracts for CBS Sports and the National Football Post.
* * *
Day 3 watch: No Hurricanes were chosen Friday in the second or third rounds of the draft, but at least one — safety Deon Bush — should hear his name called Saturday. Bush is projected to be taken in Rounds 4-6. In no particular order, defensive tackles Ufomba Kamalu and Calvin Heurtelou, wide receivers Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott, linebackers Raphael Kirby and Tyriq McCord and cornerback Tracy Howardcould be late-round picks or sign free agent contracts soon after the draft concludes.
Burns is considered by many analysts to be a raw prospect, but a clear-cut starter with some development. His size, speed and athleticism – a former track star, he holds a U.S. junior record in hurdles – presents an intriguing package. A “premium athlete,” NFL.com wrote. He played both zone and man-to-man in UM’s 3-4 scheme. Though at least one notable projection slotted him in the first round, most had Burns in the second.
“Tape is just average. Betting on the combine with him and he’ll test off the charts. He’s got the traits, but he’s not ready yet. He’s a good kid who has so much to deal with now that his mom has passed.” — NFL personnel executive.
A TMZ story posted early Thursday morning said former Hurricanes cornerback Artie Burns dropped $41,000 on jewelry in a New York City store this week, hoping to look fresh for the NFL Draft.
Those close to Burns say:
Those were the words of Melvin Bratton, Burns’ agent and a former Hurricanes running back. He said the celebrity jeweler who spoke to TMZ about Burns’ alleged run, Joe Avianne, had several key details wrong and was looking to capitalize on a marketing opportunity.
Bratton said Burns, who is shown in a TMZ photo posing with Avianne, did purchase jewelry from him. However, he said Burns did not spend anywhere near the $41,000 total TMZ reported. Avianne told TMZ that Burns “picked up a 2-tone Rolex ($19k), a diamond cross ($3k) and a diamond tennis chain ($19k).”
Bratton didn’t have receipts handy, but said the watch Burns purchased was a used model worth “maybe $5,000.”
Bratton also said Burns made his purchases Feb. 19, not this week.
“That guy’s trying to do some marketing. This time of year people prey on kids,” said Bratton, a longtime NFL personnel man and scout before he earned his agent certification three years ago. “Look at the timing. Every year something like this happens. People try to capitalize.”
“For a kid at 20, he didn’t buy a car,” Bratton said in that interview. “Some potential draftees, they’ll go spend on everything, like a dream, within a four-month period. For a guy who could really use a car, he didn’t get one. He didn’t take out a big line of credit, just enough to maintain. That’s very, very rare.”
Speaking after he learned of the TMZ story:
“He doesn’t have $41,000,” Bratton said. “He doesn’t even have a car.”
Bratton expressed similar disdain when he was informed of comments made by a 247Sports reporter that seemed to insinuate that Burns used money donated by well-wishers to buy jewelry. After Burns’ mother, Dana Smith, died suddenly last October, UM set up a GoFundMe account for fans to donate to help pay for funeral and related expenses. The account swelled past $40,000 in six hours before UM was forced to close it.
On Thursday a reporter for recruiting website 247Sports, Josh Newberg, tweeted a link to the TMZ story and commented that it was, “Odd considering Miami set up a gofundme account that raised 40K for his mothers funeral just 6 months ago.” Newberg continued to tweet with people about the story, many of whom were Hurricanes fans irritated with the perceived insinuation. In several different conversations, Newberg maintained that he might “feel weird” if he donated money to Burns and then saw the TMZ story.
“That’s a dumb-[expletive] comment,” Bratton said, using another choice word to describe Newberg.
Bratton said that account still has some $20,000 left in it – and Burns doesn’t have access to it. UM controls the access.
Newberg later deleted his original post.
“We’re not worried about all this,” Bratton said.
Bratton said Burns will have a small gathering at a family member’s home to celebrate the draft, which begins at 8 p.m. Thursday with first-round coverage. An ESPN camera crew will be there, the Miami Herald reported. Burns is considered by many analysts to be a second-round pick, but could sneak into the first round.
While the Hurricanes may not see one of their own go in the first round — cornerback Artie Burns is the only player with that potential — he and several late-round picks could join the 270 Hurricanes drafted by NFL teams.
Other than Burns, safety Deon Bush has the best shot of landing somewhere in the draft, according to several projections, while linebackers Tyriq McCord and Raphael Kirby, defensive tackle Ufomba Kamalu, cornerback Tracy Howard and receivers Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters areconsidered pro-level players and potential free agent signees.
But maybe they’ll hear their names called on TV.
The first round of the NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. Thursday in Chicago. It continues at 7 p.m. Friday with the second and third rounds. The final four rounds begin at noon Saturday.
We scanned six high-profile mock drafts that predict all seven rounds to get a better sense of where Miami’s players stand heading into the important weekend. We used:
Only Burns and Bush were widely projected to be drafted. In fact, only one other Hurricanes player — Kamalu — appeared in any of the mock drafts. WalterFootball.com slotted him in the sixth round, 214th overall, to the New England Patriots.
Wherever they land, this year’s Hurricanes draft haul is guaranteed to be smaller than last year, when UM produced seven draft picks and six free agent signees. Miami, which went 6-7 (3-5 ACC) in 2014, became the 12th losing team in the draft’s 80-year history to produce two first-round picks (Ereck Flowers, Phillip Dorsett). The 2015 Hurricanes (8-5, 5-3) return a greater concentration of talent, including quarterback Brad Kaaya, a potential first-round pick in 2017 (if he declares early) or 2018.
CBS used a point system (1 point per NFL start, 2 for Pro Bowl selection and draft selection, 3 for first-round pick). “In reality, the players themselves make their own way into the NFL on an individual basis,” CBS’ Jon Solomon wrote. “But along the way, they get help through coaching, training and exposure from their college.”