Trey Burton was sitting in the University of Florida quarterback meeting room during the second week of camp his freshman year when then-head coach Urban Meyer walked in with an unexpected remark.
“You’re too athletic to be sitting on the bench,” he said.
Thus began a four-year journey in which Burton played five offensive positions and scored both a rushing and receiving touchdown in each of his first three seasons. Meyer utilized Burton’s versatility by lining him up in the backfield, split out and at tight end.
“That definitely changed the trajectory of my career,” Burton said. “No doubt.”
The undrafted rookie tight end hopes Chip Kelly makes a similar assessment about the value of his versatility. At 6-2, 224 pounds, he’s three inches shorter and 33 pounds lighter than the average NFL starting tight end.
There are only two projected starters 6-2 or shorter, including Washington’s Jordan Reed, Burton’s former teammate. Reed also played several positions at Florida and entered last season as a backup tight end before earning a starting role.
Although Reed is heavier, Burton sees him as an NFL comparison. Reed recorded more catches and touchdowns in his last two collegiate seasons, but Burton tested out better at the combine, finishing top-five in his position in the 40 (4.62), 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
Backup Eagles tight end James Casey is also similar to Burton in terms of versatility, and he’s helping the rookie navigate his way around the offense.
“James has taken me under his wing,” Burton said. “He’s been helping me a lot with technique, teaching me some tricks of the offense and showing me the ropes.”
Burton’s athleticism and explosiveness are undeniable, and while he still faces an uphill climb to a roster spot, his skill set could appeal to Kelly.
In a 2010 game against Kentucky, Burton scored six touchdowns despite touching the ball just 10 times. Before moving to receiver full-time in his second season, he scored 11 rushing touchdowns, good for second all-time among Florida freshmen behind only Emmitt Smith. In all, Burton ended up playing nearly half of the positions on offense at Florida.
“This is the best offense I could’ve ended up in,” Burton said. “This offense is different from everything else in the NFL and I’m a different player. That’s why I came here.”
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz have firm grips on the top two tight end spots. Casey is ahead of Burton on the depth chart as well. Last year, the Eagles kept four tight ends coming out of training camp. If that’s the case again this year, Burton will have to beat out veteran Emil Igwenagu and undrafted free agent Blake Annen.
Regardless of his role, Burton is hoping to make an impression and prove that the “jack of all trades, master of none” label that has followed him can actually be a positive.