HOOVER, Ala. — If you aren’t a Vanderbilt football fan, you may not know the name Oren Burks.
But SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is doing his best to make sure the entire league knows the Commodores defender’s name by the end of SEC Media Days.
Sankey mentioned Burks, who is expected to play the prominent “star” position on Vanderbilt’s defense this fall, on two separate occasions during his opening remarks to the league’s media on Monday. And for good reasons.
In the midst of sharing the fruits of his conversations with the league’s student-athletes during his 13 months in charge, Sankey reflected upon a conversation with Burks.
“From my dialogue with our student-athletes, what is abundantly clear is our 14 universities provide each student-athlete with enormous support to meet the challenges present in their educational and competitive commitments. You’ll meet a young man today. He’s an economics major at Vanderbilt University, Oren Burks. Oren shared this during our conversation. Quote: My scholarship isn’t just money to play sports. It’s an investment in myself. We are the future leaders of America. And there’s no one else in our shoes. The skills that we’re using, we need to apply them to society. We have to make a difference and pay it forward.”
Minutes later, Sankey was again referencing Burks when citing examples of SEC football players that are doing things the right things.
“Our football programs present you people today like Oren Burks from Vanderbilt who I mentioned. He’s a two-year starter, an All-SEC candidate, an honor roll student, president-elect of Vanderbilt Student Advisory Committee and co-founder of a program called REVAMP, Revitalizing and Empowering Vanderbilt’s African-American Population. A young man not waiting to lead. He’s leading now.”
Burks was one of Vanderbilt’s three football player representatives in attendance at SEC Media Days, and he was humbled by the commissioner’s mention.
“It’s an honor,” Burks told SEC Country. “I was here this past Friday and Saturday for the student-athlete advisory conference. And just having the discussions with him about issues that are relevant to us student-athletes was important. He was very open to anything we had to say, suggestions and things like that. So it’s encouraging to know we have someone that will listen to our problems.”
Honored to represent Vanderbilt at the SEC SAAC Conference. Truly constructive discussions on issues relevant to us! pic.twitter.com/r7CpSppJR9
— Oren Burks (@BangTimeBurks) July 9, 2016
Aside from his standout performance in his many off-the-field activities, the Commodores also expect big things from Burks between the lines this season.
After shifting between linebacker and safety during his first three years on campus, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound hybrid player will again make a change to the “Star” position, which came open when former Commodores defender Stephen Weatherly left the team early for the NFL Draft following the 2015 season.
“The Star position is a hybrid outside linebacker and safety position, so I’ll be a little bit closer to the ball and trying to make dynamic plays for the team,” Burks said. “We have a lot of depth in the safety and corner positions, so I’m excited to come down to the linebacker position and try to make some plays for the team.”
Burks played in every game for the Commodores in 2015, totaling 59 tackles and three interceptions from the safety position. He intercepted two passes, and returned one for a touchdown, during last season’s win against Kentucky.