HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Andrew Burns, a redshirt-senior defensive lineman who's primarily used on special teams, is a big guy. He stands at 6-4 and weights 282 pounds. He size can make him hard to miss, but his big smile can also make him easy to spot. On Thursday, he, along with several teammates, showed how big his heart can be.
Taking some down time before their big road trip to Virginia on Saturday, Burns and some of his teammates welcomed in a group of special needs students from Oak Grove Elementary School. The golden eagle football players, towering over most of the students, welcomed the group and gave them a first class tour of some of the facilities at the Rock.
It's not the first time Burns has done something like this, but when he gets the chance to, there's no hesitation. "I really enjoy doing things like this," explained Burns, "but to see them smile and see them have a good time, it really makes us feel good too."
While in the locker room, the kids marveled at the names over the lockers as well as the equipment used by the players. In fact, they liked it so much, the players thought it okay to let the students try on the shoulder pads and helmets.
At that point, not only were the students having a good time, but so too were Burns and his teammates. Even though most of the helmets were clearly too big for the kids, they showed off their throwing a catching abilities with the players while they had the opportunity to dawn the black and gold.
After their tour of the locker room, the players gave the youngsters a chance to let out a little energy by showing them around the weight lifting facility. There, the students enjoyed everything from bicycling and dumbbell-lifting to running on the treadmill. Maybe the best part of the morning came when the kids walked their first steps on the gold logo endzone on the field at 'the Rock.'
The students ran from endzone to endzone, through the football, and maybe sometimes tried to tackle; specifically Burns. "A lot of the kids see me as a big guy, so they want to come up and tackle me right away," said Burns with a smile, "So I was in there playing around and it was fun for them, but I think one of them hit my leg a little hard so it hurts a little bit. But I'm good though."
The festivities finally ended when the students, sweating and worn out from their fun time at the Rock, made their way back to the bus that took them back to Oak Grove Elementary. Watching some of the kids leave, Burns put that big smile on his face, knowing he allowed for some of them to smile.
"Personally, it's a good feeling to know that your helping them out, you know," said Burns, "We're somebody they can look up to in the community, somebody they can see us on TV, they can see us here if they come to the game, and it really, you know, does something for me. Especially, just because we can do something for them; put a smile on their face, and it returns to us and puts a smile on our face."