CHARLOTTE – On one hand, Brian Burns couldn’t believe it.
“It’s really mind-blowing, just the fact that I’m going to the Carolina Panthers,” Burns said in a conference call after being selected 16th overall.
On the other hand, he knew this would be the outcome all along.
The Panthers showed the most interest in him throughout the pre-draft process – he said as much weeks ago – and the Florida State edge rusher was often mocked to Carolina.
“Yeah, I’ve seen my name connected to the Panthers a lot,” Burns said. “That means a lot to me. It means it’s already written. I knew I can’t control nothing else, so I was going to sit back and see what happens and this is what was already written and I’m glad it was written this way.”
He's glad for so many reasons.
Making it to this stage is obviously a dream come true. But to be selected by the same team who drafted his older brother Stanley McClover in the seventh round back in 2006? That’s surreal.
“You had to be there. It was almost like he couldn’t breathe,” Burns said of his brother, who was with him in Nashville. “He’s going through it right now. He’s probably more excited than me to tell you the truth. But he loves it.”
And then there’s the fact that Burns’ arrival comes on the heels of Julius Peppers’ retirement. Peppers, taken with the No. 2 overall pick in 2002, was the last defensive end selected in the first round by Carolina before general manager Marty Hurney tabbed Burns on Thursday night.
“As soon as he retired, I already kind of put it together like yeah, this is going to be crazy if they pick me,” Burns said. “I’ve always watched him and looked up to him.”
Burns doesn’t have to be the next Julius Peppers. That’s an impossible ask. But he does need to spark Carolina’s pass rush.
Getting to the quarterback is what Burns does best. As Hurney told reporters, Burns has “elite athletic traits” that he uses effectively against the guys tasked with blocking him.
“My best qualities are my burst, speed, my technique. I can go in and out. I have natural bendability and flexibility,” Burns said. “Those are my best traits.”
And that’s not all.
“I’m hungry. I’m hungry for knowledge. I want to learn. I want to be coached, I want to be coachable,” Burns said. “But I want to be great, and I’m ready to get going and get this work in.”
The work will be waiting for him and he embraces it. This is a guy who hardly ever came off the field at Florida State. He knows what it means to be challenged physically and mentally.
“I didn’t come off the field a lot at all. My team needed me. We didn’t have much depth at the edge position. I played basically every snap and I didn’t want to let my teammates down,” Burns said.
“So I kept pushing, kept pounding.”
Spoken like a true Panther.
View photos of Brian Burns at the 2019 NFL Draft as he's selected 16th overall by the Carolina Panthers.