2013 hasn’t been the easiest of years for former Eagle Blake Burdette. The Utah rugby team was suspended under his watch, and Burdette consequently lost the job of coaching his alma mater. The Utes went very quickly from a team excited to compete in a new postseason to a team on ice, and Burdette was in the middle of it.
For that reason, and some personal reasons, he needed a change of scenery.
“I just needed to get away from Salt Lake, so I just called [former NYAC coach] Bruce McLane up and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to take a little break from Salt Lake, what do you think about me playing for [NYAC] again?’” Burdette said.
McLane passed him onto the current coaching staff and the rest is recent history. Having not played much serious rugby (he played a little with the Utah Warriors in the Super League a couple of years ago) since NYAC’s championship run in 2008, Burdette is back on the pitch, and loving it.
“It’s fun to be back on the field again. I’m not where I was five years ago, but I’m playing and I guess I’m feeling better about life and where I’m at as far as running around again,” said Burdette. “Playing rugby makes me happy, so I’m having a really good time, and I’m happy about it.”
33, Burdette has no illusions about what to expect. In fact, he’s struggled to crack the starting lineup.
“After the last two games, I haven’t moved on Sunday. I’m not recovering as quick as I used to, but it’s fun to be out with the boys,” he said, “and there’s some really good young talent on the team, especially up in the front row.”
Formerly a hooker, Burdette is playing tighthead. Oddly enough, the Eagles are auditioning props and hookers ahead of their November tests and spring World Cup qualifiers. But Burdette isn’t sure how long this comeback is going to last – he says he has to return to Salt Lake and start working again at some point. But it’s not crazy to imagine the former tight end of an undefeated DI football team being able to contribute at the top level again.
“I’m happy and content where I’m at, but there’s nothing like putting on that Eagles jersey at the end of the day. I’m not in form to be able to play. That’s pretty apparent,” said Burdette. “Now, if I get to that level and the coaches think I can help, then I’ll certainly listen, but I’m happy to be contributing to what NYAC’s doing right now, and hopefully I can help them win this weekend and this fall.
“I had a quick conversation with [Paul] Emerick and David Fee about the Classic Eagles, and if they want me to try out for the team, I’m happy to do it, and maybe that’s where I go now. We’ll just see.”