Column: Former Aztecs star Miles Burris jumps from NFL to acting
There are so many questions someone might ask Miles Burris. What was it like to start as a rookie for the Oakland Raiders? What fueled an acrobatic interception of Carolina’s Cam Newton in 2012? How did he lead the Mountain West in tackles for loss in consecutive seasons at San Diego State?
That’s the other Burris, though.
This Burris, the post-NFL Burris, sparks a completely different set of questions. Namely, what’s this TV gig as “Hunk #1”?
“I don’t think I was worth a name on that one, I guess,” said Burris, now forging a career as a self-made actor — trading blitz schemes for scripts. “Actually, it was a good part (on the TV Land show, “Teachers”). They hired a company called Moving Hunks and the teachers were drooling all over them.
“My wife thought it was funny.”
Since fifth grade, Burris had lived and breathed football. Then a lightning bolt of realization struck during a mini-camp tryout last year with the Vikings, causing him to step away from the game for good.
The film, as they say, rarely lies.
“It was the last straw. My body couldn’t do it anymore,” Miles said. “I could see on film it was holding me back from the level I needed to be at. I came home and I was pretty down.
“I had mentioned to my wife for a year that I was thinking about acting. So she let me mope about football for one day on the couch. Then it was like, ‘We’re going to get you into an acting class, we’re getting you a headshot.’
“She got me moving.”
Hollywood is a competitive, Hunk-eat-Hunk world for those trying to break in. Burris, though, already understood the value of putting in the work and fighting long odds, climbing from Montezuma Mesa to the NFL.
So, the former linebacker squared his muscular shoulders and charged … into meetings, into projects, into something other than ball-carriers for a change. He landed a role here and there, from “gala guest” in a show called “James Blondes” to a part in the TV movie “A Royal Christmas Ball,” starring Tara Reid.
“You film all the Christmas movies in the summer, so it was like 100 degrees when we were shooting in L.A.,” said Burris, 30. “That’s part of it, though. You’re playing pretend, right?”
Along the way, he became the co-lead in a country music video for the song “Souvenirs” by Jillian Cardarelli. At one point, the video remained in the Top 10 on Country Music Television for seven consecutive weeks.
Hey, it was another chance to get in front of the camera.
“I’m like the ex-boyfriend and she’s taking all her stuff back,” he said. “It’s more of a comedic thing that we shot in a few hours in Nashville. I think that gives me the street cred to say, ‘Y’all’ — but we’ll see.”
There are more similarities between football and acting, Burris argued, than most might think. You need to bring energy and effort. You need to develop chemistry with the people working alongside you.
And you better be prepared.
“It’s like football,” he said. “If you don’t put the work in, you get found out pretty quickly.”
A potential breakthrough came this month when a scene with Burris appeared on a major network in prime time. Burris appeared as patient in an L.A. emergency room on the CBS drama “Code Black.”
The cast includes Marcia Gay Harden, Rob Lowe and Luis Guzman. Burris bonded with veteran actor William Allen Young, whose 90 acting credits range from “Jagged Edge” in the 1980s to “NCIS,” “The Mentalist,” “Castle” and more.
“That’s who I did most all of my scenes with,” Burris said. “We had a lot of really great talks. I was taking notes like crazy, because I was so hungry to learn. I still look back at those.”
The hunky side of Burris is scheduled to find air July 24, when he debuts in “Teachers.” From there, he’ll wait to see if his role as a bodyguard in the upcoming action movie “iBot” stays off the cutting-room floor.
Keep clawing, sans shoulder pads.
“I call myself like an on-call nurse,” he said. “You take them when you can get them. I’m going to (another audition) in about a half hour. I’m sure people probably think, this guy was a starting linebacker for the Raiders, then he fell off the face of the earth.
“I’m a super private guy in general, so that was kind of on purpose. I’ve enjoyed the obscurity and privacy for a while.”
When Burris reminisces about his time as an Aztec, it leads him to one game in particular.
“When we played in the Poinsettia Bowl (a 35-14 win over Navy in 2010),” Burris said of the Aztecs’ first bowl in more than a decade and first postseason victory since 1969. “We were in front of our fans, it was a big crowd and they’ve kind of been rolling ever since.
“That was extremely gratifying. I was really proud to be a part of that.”
Now, the football page is turned. So instead of dreaming about Super Bowls, his mind drifts to …
“Playing a Marvel or DC superhero,” he said. “That would be a dream role.”
The linebacker, chasing that next line.
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