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Get to Know: Assistant Special Teams Coach Keith Burns

Posted Sep 28, 2012

Assistant Special Teams Coach Keith Burns talks about his relationship with Rod Smith and how Smith's story still impacts the Broncos.


Editor’s Note: This Q&A story ran in the Sept. 23 Gameday program, when the Broncos played the Houston Texans.

What was Rod Smith like as a teammate?

“He was awesome. We came into the league together. His first year, our rookie year, he got put on practice squad and I was fortunate enough to make the team. He was always a great teammate. One thing he always had was his work ethic. He was very determined to do what he needed to do to allow himself to even make the team. He made the practice squad his rookie year because we were loaded at wide receiver. But once he got his opportunity to show what he could do, he took full advantage of it and the rest is pretty much history.”

How excited were you to hear that Smith had been inducted into the Ring of Fame?

“I’m always happy for him. I would put him up there right with John (Elway) and Shannon (Sharpe) and them because I’ve seen where he was and I’ve seen where he is now and he’s always been humble about everything that he’s gotten, all the accolades and everything. We always say that there’s no substitute for hard work. He never looked at that as any different, whether it was him having to cover a kick or him having to go out there and catch 10 balls in a game, he never wavered. He was willing to do whatever he had to do to win a game. That, to me, shows his mindset as far as the team concept goes. He’s the epitome of a guy who is willing to go out there and do whatever it takes to win a game. So to see him go into the Ring of Fame, it’s almost like your brother getting that same accolade. To have your name go up in the Ring of Fame, it’s almost like the ultimate other than the Hall of Fame. But hopefully that will be the next thing coming up. To know him and to know the type of person that he is, I think he will cherish it and I’m just happy for him.”

Do you think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

“There’s no question. I don’t know what the criteria is, but if you just go off the pure numbers, he probably has the best undrafted numbers out there for a receiver. I know there’s a lot of good receivers out there now waiting for that call. But at the same time, you can put his numbers up to any of them and they compare. I think it’s just a matter of time and it’s not like he’s in a rush to have to be in the Hall of Fame. He doesn’t have to be a first-ballot guy, but at the same time, if the Pro Football Hall of Fame stands by what they stand for, there’s no question that he’ll be in, because he has the numbers. It’s just the time thing. He has to wait his turn.”

Do you use his story with current players?

“All the time. He even comes around, when he comes back around he tells a lot of the young guys that that’s how he got his start, is starting on special teams. To have that opportunity, he just wanted to play ball. Whatever he had to do, whether it was covering a kick – I remember games where he covered kicks and caught passes and ran reverses and threw passes, so he basically did the whole gamut throughout his whole career. But knowing where he had to start, I always use his upbringing as far as his NFL goals, along with Terrell Davis, because they kind of parallel. Me coming in with Rod, knowing what he had to go through and what he’s been through makes it that much more important. But I always tell the young guys, if there’s a guy you ever want to pattern yourself after, especially wide receivers because you don’t hear a lot of wide receivers being able to do a whole lot. I think he basically just took advantage of every opportunity that he got. He just loved the game, respected the game for what it was. So I’m always proud to say that I know a guy like that, who started on special teams and became an integral part of Broncos football.”

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