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Vanderbilt LB Oren Burks Aims to Impress at Combine


INDIANAPOLIS – Linebacker Oren Burks tackled more than just ball carriers during his playing days at Vanderbilt.

Burks tackled playing three different positions with the Commodores while also being very involved on campus, and in the Nashville community. He was a finalist for Vanderbilt's campus-wide Outstanding Senior Award, and he was voted as Mr. Commodore Award recipient by fellow Vanderbilt student-athletes.

His resume has made him attractive here at the NFL Combine. Burks hopes his game tape – and his performance in interviews and on the field – will help pole vault him into the NFL a year after another Commodore linebacker (Zach Cunningham) made the leap.

"My big thing is football IQ," Burks said. "This is one time you get a chance to talk some ball with (NFL teams). Just going through plays, drawing up plays and going through film, that has definitely helped me a lot. Because (teams) are like, "This guy can pick up an NFL playbook.' Being a Vanderbilt guy, we're pretty smart. Being able to talk through that helps out a lot."

Burks started 11 of 12 games at inside linebacker in 2017 after playing hybrid linebacker-safety position in 2016. Previously, he played strictly in the secondary. As a senior, Burks set new personal highs with 45 solo tackles and 82 total tackles.

Burks ranked No. 15 in the SEC in total tackles as a senior, and he also registered seven tackles for loss, a quarterback sack, interception and fumble recovery, and four defensed. Burks tallied over 200 tackles during his Commodore career, and he also intercepted five passes, including one he returned for a touchdown.

Here at the NFL Combine, he's hoping to show off his versatility on the field.

"I just want to show my athleticism. It's a great opportunity to show what you can do on and off the field, and the interviews have been very productive, meeting with coaches face to face," Burks said.

"(Playing three different position), it definitely was a challenge, but it definitely helped. I definitely think my best ball is ahead of me at the inside (linebacker) position, and I am excited to see what the next chapter holds. … I think my versatility, anywhere on the field a team needs me, I'll find a way to make plays for you. That's what I have been pitching to a lot of teams, being a three-down linebacker, and I definitely think that will add value to a team."

Burks said he's received some valuable advice from Cunningham.

After starring at Vanderbilt, Cunningham was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.

Cunningham started 13 games for the Texans during his rookie season, tallying 90 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Burks thinks watching Cunningham over the years helped prepare him for the NFL.

Now, he's ready for his chance.

"We talked last week, just trying to get a gist of what to expect at the combine and he gave me some great advice – just relax and be yourself. You have prepared for this your whole career, so shine when the lights come on," Burks said.

"(Zach) had a great rookie year. That dude, he worked his butt off. It is definitely a testament to him putting the work in while he was at Vanderbilt. When I made that transition to inside I watched a lot of his film and it was a good visual key to what I could do because we are similar body types. I look up to that guy. He is like a brother to me."

Titans GM Jon Robinson and new head coach Mike Vrabel make media rounds at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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