Canadian tight end Jake Burt compares playing for the New England Patriots to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
That’s because Burt was born in Regina — his mother Dawn is from the Saskatchewan capital — and his family moved to Boston when he was three years old. The Boston College product spent the 2020 season with Bill Belichick and the Pats.
“Playing for Saskatchewan would be like playing for the Patriots. I grew up here, played for the Patriots. Going and playing for my hometown would be unbelievable,” Burt said in a videoconference.
“I’ve always thought of Saskatchewan as my hometown. I grew up in Boston, yes, but I was always the outsider from Canada, and I always took pride in that. There’s a lot of pride in Saskatchewan and in the country, I know it’s a great country.”
The 24-year-old proved his roots from the prairie province with perfect pronunciations of both ‘Regina’ and ‘Saskatchewan.’ And he knows the green and white football franchise has a dedicated following inside those borders and across Canada, including his grandma Pat Holzer who still lives in the provincial capital.
“That was a pet peeve of mine when people wouldn’t pronounce it right. I learned it very early — I have so much pride in Saskatchewan, it’s where I was born and that’s never going to change,” Burt said, although he hasn’t been back since leaving as a kid.
“I know it’s prairie land, I’ve heard how cold it can get, and above all else they love their football.”
Burt’s love for the sport fits in with that of his hometown and it shows on the field. He attended St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass. and received scholarship offers from a number of top institutions including Brown, Harvard, Old Dominion, and Virginia.
The six-foot-three, 245-pounder chose Boston College and played five years for the Eagles. He recorded 23 receptions for 307 yards and two touchdowns. Burt missed the entire 2016 season due to a torn ACL and tore the same knee ligament six months later. During the 2019 NCAA season, he suffered a broken collarbone against Notre Dame.
“I’ve taken a whole deep dive into taking care of my body and realizing the best ability is availability. I pour my whole off-seasons into making sure I’m going to be as healthy and as durable as possible,” Burt said.
“In terms of my outlook on nutrition, rehabilitation, corrective exercise, exercising to prevent injury, eating to prevent injury, stretching to prevent injury, mobilizing to prevent injury.”
Following the 2020 NFL Draft, Belichick decided to sign Burt as a priority undrafted free agent. He received $80,000 guaranteed, which was one of the larger bonuses for tight ends. Burt spent the entire season on the practice roster and after his contract expired the Patriots decided not to re-sign him.
“I’ll never forget and it’s an experience I’ll always be grateful for being coached by Coach Belichick. He’s brilliant, he’s the best football mind I’ve ever been around. Just the way he approaches coaching is truly an experience,” Burt said.
“Studying the way he approaches every day, let alone practice or games. Listening to him talk and his depth of understanding of the game of football is remarkable. It was truly a privilege to play under him. I thought Coach Belichick has a great sense of humour.”
According to NFL sources, even though New England brought him in for one year, there are injury red flags on Burt and questions about his toughness. Those are the main reasons no other team south of the border has offered him a contract. On the flip side, there is no denying Burt is an intriguing talent, especially in the ever-evolving and wide open Canadian game — if he can stay healthy.
“It’s a business, I don’t know the reasons exactly why, they don’t call you and tell you. For whatever reason they chose not to bring me back, it wasn’t a cut, it just wasn’t a re-signing. It was their decision, I respect that decision, I’m a professional and I can accept it,” Burt said.
“The free agent market hasn’t been hot for me. Right now the CFL is the one that’s calling my name. My whole extended family still lives in Canada. I get to go experience a different country, and go play football there. I’m here to play pro football, this is what I do for a living, so whoever wants me, I’m more than willing to go wherever and put that work in.”
One of his former Boston College teammates was quarterback Troy Flutie, the son of Darren Flutie and nephew of Doug Flutie. Burt knows the history of Doug and Darren in the CFL and knows that the three-down version of the game is high-calibre football. It’s a style of football Burt believes fits his physical traits and abilities.
“My speed is my hidden gem, I can run extremely well. I’ve worked tirelessly on my route running and improved it dramatically with Coach [Josh] McDaniels and Coach Belichick over in New England. I got great coaching and went against great competition over there and only sharpened my tools more — iron sharpens iron,” Burt said.
“I want to go make championship plays and win a Grey Cup. I can make a big impact as a receiver, but I can come in and do that H-back stuff too. I’m hoping to put a whole new twist on the position as a big receiver who can run like all the other receivers but is big enough to come in and do the other things.”
At his virtual pro day in 2020, Burt confidently stated he ran 4.48 and 4.53 hand-timed 40-yard dashes, but behind the scenes on both sides of the border scouts have questioned the times. Even still, CFL teams are highly intrigued by Burt as he’s had Zoom meetings with every Canadian franchise — Riders included — except one.
“I don’t want to put anyone on blast,” Burt said while denying to reveal the outlier team.
“I have my senses, I’m just praying that I get drafted by a team that really wants me and is really looking forward to working with me and winning championships.”
Based on conversations with CFL executives, it seems as though Burt is a surefire first-round pick in the 2021 CFL Draft. Spending time with the Patriots has raised his stock among talent evaluators. No matter which team selects Burt, he’ll have to prove his worth on special teams while earning a role on offence.
According to Pro Football Focus, which tracks data closely, Burt had nine total plays on special teams during his four seasons on the field at Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Eight of the reps came as a senior — four on the field goal team, three kick returns, one kick cover, and one punt cover.
“I’ve played special teams my entire career, I don’t have a lot of game tape on it. In terms of practice reps there’s no shortage, and there’s no shortage of want-to in any part of my game,” Burt said.
“Those game-changing championship plays are going to be made through the air, but they can be made in the run game too and I’ll make that happen. If that entails me going and making crucial blocks, of course I’m willing to do that.”
Burt will be with his parents in Boston — father Scott was a Canadian national water polo team member — watching the draft and finding out which team calls his name. Grandma will be doing the same from Regina as part of a Burt family Zoom call for the special occasion.
“She’s a die-hard, bleeds green still. I know how die-hard they are in Saskatchewan and I know how much they love their football,” Burt said.
“The NFL, the CFL, it’s hard to find a spot anywhere. I know the quality of play is great. I want to prove that I’m the best among the best, that’s why I want to go to Canada.”