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NC State star DJ Burns could become an NFL star

(WGHP) — DJ Burns has captured the hearts and minds of the college basketball audience with his larger-than-life personality and play on the court.

Burns has often been the engine of success for NC State as the team has made an unprecedented run to the ACC Tournament Championship and now to the Final Four in Phoenix.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – MARCH 23: DJ Burns Jr. #30 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack is fouled by Blake Lampman #11 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in the second half during the second round of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament held at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 23, 2024, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Burns, who stands at 6-feet-9-inches tall and weighs 275 pounds, has remarkable footwork and grace for a player his size and often leaves defenders puzzled with his nimble moves in the low post.

https://embed.sendtonews.com/player4/embedcode.js?fk=ThMj3EBx&cid=9867&offsety=140&floatwidth=400&floatposition=top-right

DALLAS, TEXAS – MARCH 31: DJ Burns Jr. #30 of the NC State Wolfpack moves the ball against Mark Mitchell #25 of the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Burns is currently a fifth-year senior and will have used all of his collegiate eligibility once the Wolfpack’s Cinderella season concludes. Which has left many to speculate on what could be next for the charismatic big man.

DALLAS, TEXAS – MARCH 31: DJ Burns Jr. #30 of the NC State Wolfpack moves the ball against Ryan Young #15 of the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Unfortunately for Burns, the NBA has largely gone away from the archetype of the large post-scoring center as teams prioritize three-point shooting, defensive versatility and the ability to space the floor.

Most mock draft projections don’t have Burns being selected with any of the 60 picks in the 2024 NBA Draft and Burns would likely have to earn his way onto an NBA roster by competing in the Summer League, G-League and trying to earn a two-way contract with a team.

While Burns would be incredibly likely to have much better opportunities to play professional basketball overseas; scouts in another sport are very intrigued by the smooth-moving big man’s potential.

Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout and current Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, reports that there is real interest from NFL executives in Burns making a career switch.

Jared Kirksey, the Carolina Panthers director of college scouting tells Darin Gantt of Panthers.com that “maybe there’s a chance he could play in the NFL.”

Nagy suggests that Burns could play tackle in the NFL saying: “Anyone else having trouble watching N.C State big man D.J. Burns and not thinking about him kick-sliding in pass pro or getting out on pulls? Can’t just be me.”

Kirksey says that he can see the skills that Burns flashes on the hardwood translating to the gridiron.

“I mean, a lot of times when you’re looking at tackles, you look at their footwork, their ability to redirect, their lateral agility,” Kirksey said. “Those are the things that he uses as his superpowers. Because this kid is athletic, he’s really nimble on his feet. His ability to play around the rim is really impressive, in my opinion.

Panthers left tackle Ickey Ekwonu, who also attended NC State, also believes that Burns could make the switch to football.

“He probably could,” Ekwonu told Panthers.com. “I think it’s definitely not out of the scope of his talents, you know, putting his hand in the dirt.”

Ekwonu also believes that Burns has the footwork to play the tight end position.

“But I think he’d be a really good tight end. I feel like guys are kind of limiting him because of his size, but he got the kind of footwork where he could play anything,” Ekwonu says.

Kirksey concurs saying that he could see Burns as a tackle, tight end or even defensive lineman.

“For him to have that ability with his foot quickness, his athletic ability, his ability, body control wise, his balance is very impressive, so he could play in numerous spots,” Kirksey says.

For what it’s worth, the Panthers are well-versed in Tar Heel State Final Four participants turning into stars on the gridiron.

16 Mar 2000: Julius Peppers #45 of the North Carolina Tar Heels runs with the ball as Jeff Hafer #24 of the Missouri Tigers runs behind him during the NCAA Tournament Round One Game at the Jefferson CMC Center in Birmingham, Alabama. The Tar Heels defeated the Tigers 84-70. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire /Allsport

Peppers, now a member of the Pro Football of Fame, played basketball for North Carolina while also starring for the football team before being selected by the Carolina Panthers as the second pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

20 April 2002: Julius Peppers of North Carolina is picked second in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Digital Image. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Burns however seems determined to maintain his focus on basketball for the moment.

He told Dan Patrick that he would “probably pursue some other options with basketball first before all of that but I’m not a closed-minded person.”


Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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