The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and tight end Jake Burt activated stealth mode prior to the 2021 CFL Draft.
The Ticats sent team apparel overnight so the gear would be there for the official announcement of the No. 1 overall pick by commissioner Randy Ambrosie on TSN.
“I was signing the contract the morning of, that was when I found out personally. I actually held it from my parents, and my family and friends until we got the call from Coach O,” Burt said referring to head coach Orlondo Steinauer.
“It was a sigh of relief signing before the pick, but until I got the call, until I heard it, it didn’t feel real — it all just came true at once. The No. 1 overall pick, I’m just blessed and lucky enough, I gotta show up and earn my job at camp.”
The Regina-born Burt was coveted by a number of teams since becoming draft eligible, including his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders. Also, there was speculation around the league that if Burt didn’t come off the board first or second, multiple teams were considering trading up to select him.
“I was born in Saskatchewan, grew up my entire life in Boston, but my whole family is in Saskatchewan. That would have been really cool, but I’m a professional football player, that’s what I do for a living,” Burt said.
“Hamilton wants me bad, so I’m going to go there and do everything I can to make that organization as great as we can be. Everything is against the green at this point, unfortunately.”
Burt’s family moved to Massachusetts when he was four years old, which is where Burt played his high school football at St. John’s Prep. During his senior season, he caught 28 passes for 255 yards and seven touchdowns which earned ESPN Boston all-state honours while playing for former NFL quarterback Brian St. Pierre.
The six-foot-three, 245-pound athlete chose to accept a scholarship from Boston College and spent five years with the Eagles. He recorded 23 receptions for 307 yards and two touchdowns in 36 games. 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 the University of Notre Dame.
“We prepped for Jake in last year’s draft, but he didn’t put his name in the draft last year. We had done a bunch of prep work in the previous draft. We refreshed it and talked about his time in New England,” Ticats co-manager of football operations Shawn Burke said.
“He did take down his playing weight from Boston College to fit New England’s scheme — he’s lighter, which will make him faster on the field. The offensive skillset gives us an added dimension on the offensive side of the ball.”
Following the 2020 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots decided to sign Burt as a priority undrafted free agent. He received $80,000 guaranteed, one of the larger signing bonuses for tight ends. Burt spent the entire season on the practice roster and after his contract expired the Patriots elected not to re-sign him.
“I’ll never forget the time I spent in New England, I improved dramatically as a football player while I was there. Being able to be in the building with Coach Belichick every day, get coached by him, I learned so much about the game. He’s a brilliant football mind and his football IQ is through the roof,” Burt said.
“Watching the way he approaches everything in his daily life, not just practice, and not just games, but the way he watches tape, the way he addresses us in a meeting, it’s all very unique. It’s definitely improved my overall football intellect. I learned so much about the game, I look at it in a completely different way.”
Even though Burt is listed as a tight end, the 24-year-old has the ability to line up at any of the receiver spots, and play the H-back role on offence. Hamilton offensive coordinator Tommy Condell used 2019 second-round pick Nikola Kalinic creatively during his rookie season. Burt provides increased depth being a similar body type and can allow the Ticats offence to be increasingly versatile from snap to snap.
“I’m going to play a little bit of receiver, I’m going to do things in the run game, do things in the protection game, but I can do it all. My athleticism, my speed is my strength, my want-to, I’m just willing to do whatever they want to do with me,” Burt said.
“I want to go there and become an extremely explosive player for them and make a lot of big plays. Really put a new twist on this tight end position where I can actually be a part of all packages.”
Burt envisions being an exciting player in the three-down league who makes game-changing plays while helping Hamilton win multiple Grey Cups. All that’s left is to prove it by living up to the hype.