AUBURN, Ala. -- Teammates swear that if you close your eyes and listen to Auburn wide receiver Kodi Burns imitate Gus Malzahn, youd think it was the offensive coordinator himself.
Gene Chizik too. Burns can do all the coaches voices better than anyone on the team.
Ill do it in front of them, I really dont care, Burns said, displaying the brazenness of a senior. (Malzahn) calls me Funny Man as a joke, being sarcastic. Im just that kind of person, so it really doesnt matter, whoevers watching.
For a less-respected player, it might be a problem. Not for Burns, someone revered for how he handled losing the starting quarterback job to Chris Todd in August 2009, calling for an end to the team division that submarined Tommy Tubervilles final season.
Chizik and the Tigers still refer to it as a seminal moment in the programs turnaround.
Kodi is the true definition of a team player, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. The day he found out, he told them hes going to do everything he could to help the team.
Hes just a true Auburn man.
When he signed with the Tigers out of Fort Smith, Ark., in 2007, he wanted to be the man. One of the top quarterback recruits in the country -- he played in the same high school All-American game as Cam Newton, now Auburns starting quarterback -- Burns figured to be Auburns successor to Brandon Cox.
Its where my heart was at, Burns said. I loved it, and thats all I knew.
By now, though, Auburn fans know how things unfolded. Burns, who had four coordinators during his career, never panned out at quarterback.
He and Todd shared duties during a forgettable 2008 season before Malzahn came on board in 2009, picking Todd as the starter as Burns switched positions.
A lot of times things dont work out the way you think they are, but youve just got to take the hand that youre dealt, he said.
Burns progress came slowly but surely at wide receiver, a position he hadnt played.
We used to kind of make fun of Kodi the way he used to catch the ball, wide receiver Emory Blake said, mimicking a gator chomp. It just took him a little bit because (quarterback) was his original position. Hes come a long way.
Burns numbers arent eye-popping. He has 10 catches for 142 yards this year. and Newton has one more touchdown reception than him -- although Burns threw it to him.
But Burns biggest value isnt in receptions, even though he made two crucial ones that helped the comeback against Alabama.
He is one of the best blockers on the team, an underrated part of Auburns rushing success.
A lot of people dont understand his role because he went from quarterback to wide receiver, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said.
And I try to explain it to them: If you look at a rock wall, you see all the big stones but what most people dont notice is those little stones hold those big stones together. Kodis one of those little stones that keeps the whole thing together.
He is considered a leader by example, a tireless worker whose practice habits are admired and whose words are heeded.
Hell say something at the end of practice to the whole group about choices and decisions: Everybody, be smart, be Auburn men, Taylor said.
Hes one of the few guys that can talk, and both sides of the ball are going to respect him.