Name: Tyreek Burwell
NFL games played: 16
Games played for the Chargers: 16
Fun fact: As an UDFA, Burwell realised he'd made the team after most of us - he was sitting in the practice facility, convinced that he was going to get cut, but the roster with his name on it had already been posted on the Chargers website!
Tyreek Burwell's worked harder than most to get to this point.
In High School, Burwell was athletic enough to play a number of positions. However, unlike with most athletes, that actually worked to his detriment. Burwell was so much a 'jack of all trades, master of none' that there was minimal interest in him from any college team, which explains how Burwell ended up at D3 school SUNY-Cortland as a TE. He spent two years as a TE there, but was desperate to leave for an FBS school. One slight hitch, though - big FBS schools aren't exactly heading to SUNY-Cortland to recruit new players. If Burwell wanted to get their attention, he'd have to do it himself. So he did.
Burwell put together his own highlight reel, and sent it out to various FBS schools. Not many answered, but his work had seemingly paid off when Cincinnati got in contact and offered him the chance to walk onto the team there. Burwell was understandably excited, but couldn't afford the pricey out-of-state tuition fees he'd have to pay. Not that he was going to let that stop him. Burwell was determined, and took a year out of school and football, taking a job at the Cheesecake Factory to make enough money so that he could fund his tuition.
Burwell enrolled in Cincinnati a year later in 2012, but - once again - things didn't work out the way Burwell had envisioned. His plan was to try and win a scholarship as a TE, but was convinced by his HC to transition to the OL instead. Initially hesitant, Burwell put on 20 lbs and was 'rewarded' with Scout Team Player of the Year in 2013, which is essentially a 'well done for trying'. Scant reward, considering how much Burwell had put into football. He did see some playing time in 2014, but you could count the number of games Burwell started on one hand. That should have been it for his football career. Backup offensive linemen in college do not go and have careers in the NFL.
Well, most of them don't.
Burwell absolutely smashed his Pro Day, putting up 30 reps on the Bench Press and running a 4.97 40 yard dash. That convinced the Chargers enough to take a look at him as an UDFA, but he was realistically destined to be on the list of first cuts, and never heard from again. Fortunately for Burwell, destiny and reality don't always mix. He stuck around for a bit. Then he stuck around for a bit longer. Then he found out he'd made the Chargers 53 man roster.
From Division III, to a walk-on at an FBS school, to a backup OL in college, to an NFL player? That doesn't happen. But, for Burwell, maybe this was his destiny after all. A reflection of the countless hours he spent, honing his craft when nobody else believed in him. Stepping away from the game he loved for a year to work in a restaurant, just so he could raise enough money to pursue his dream. When you have to fight that hard, you don't end up succeeding through chance - you succeed simply because you know no other way. It's a cliché, but failure really wasn't an option. Not for Burwell. Failure is no match for destiny.
I really wish I could leave Burwell's story here, but Burwell gained a bit of infamy in 2016 that we need to talk about. I have no wishes to go into the full story here, because it's a convoluted case that would take far too long to go into with little benefit (it is also 2:30 AM in England as I'm writing this). Here's what you need to know:
Tyreek has a sister called Asha Burwell, who attended the University of Albany. Essentially, there was a fight on a bus heading towards campus, with Asha Burwell and two other black students claiming that white students on the bus had racially abused and attacked them, sparking the brawl. The case made national news at the time. However, in April 2017, Burwell and another of the students were found guilty on two counts of falsely reporting an incident. As I said, it's convoluted, and the full details of what actually happened still aren't clear, but that's irrelevant. What you need to know with regards to this story is what Burwell tweeted at a student in the immediate aftermath.
In the tweet (which Burwell later deleted), he's making a thinly veiled threat to harm someone - a college student (or ex student, as Albany later said that he was no longer registered there), because he believes the student was involved in the incident.
Protecting your family is important, and I can (vaguely) understand where Burwell is coming from, but there's a difference between protecting your family and threatening a college student. A big difference. According to the Times Union, the student tweeted: "guys say a prayer for me please," before adding "I got pressed for a fight I wasn't a part of, and got accused of being involved." Then lastly: "All by an @NFL player."
I'm not here to tell you how to feel about Tyreek Burwell. I'm just here to give you the facts and let you decide for yourself. There's a lot to like about Burwell and the way he's made it to the NFL. There's also a pretty clear reason to fall on the other side of the fence. I'd be interested to know which side you're taking.