Former CFL defensive lineman Darin Burns becomes first Canadian to play organized football in six decades

Photo courtesy: Jason Bowie

Former CFL defensive lineman Darin Burns can still play tackle football at age 56.

Burns suited up for the Moncton Mustangs on Saturday, May 8, and played 20 snaps against the Fredericton Fleet. He made two-and-a-half tackles prior to leaving the game at halftime with a hamstring injury. His Mustangs won 24-0 on a rainy day in New Brunswick at Rocky Stone Field.

The performance made Burns the first person in Canadian history to play organized football in six different decades. It’s no one-game stunt, however, Burns intends to play the full season in the Maritime Football League and wants to earn a spot on the All-Star team.

“We’ve got seven teams in our league, one in PEI, two in Nova Scotia, and four in New Brunswick. It’s good, quality football, it’s entertaining. We do get fans and our games are regularly televised,” Burns said on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“A lot of the kids that play in the league are former college players. We had a kid that played on our team in 2009, Mike Miller who went on and made the all-decade team in the CFL for special teams.”

Taylor Burns, one of his five children, plays along the offensive line at McMaster University following a transfer from Tennessee Technological University. Taylor played the opening game of the season with the Mustangs so he and his father competed on the same field.

After having fallen out of shape, Burns decided to hit the gym in January 2020. He’s since lost 25 pounds and dropped twelve inches from his waist, exercising seven days per week to be prepared for his return to football in the Maritimes. The soon-to-be 57-year-old can bench press 225 pounds 25 times and runs a 5.20 forty-yard time.

Burns spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, and Ottawa Rough Riders from 1985 to 1988. The old beast from down east wants a chance to attend training camp with the Toronto Argonauts to honour longtime CFL defensive lineman Bruce Smith who was a mentor and key figure helping Burns overcome childhood abuse.

“I’m hoping that I’m going to play well enough that I can get an opportunity to go to a training camp with Toronto, if that can be worked out,” the six-foot-four, 300-pound Burns said.

“It would be a helluva story for the Toronto Argonauts, and I’d like to play a couple of plays — I think I can handle a couple of plays at the CFL level no problem.”