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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Lamont Burns

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from East Carolina

Guard Lamont Burns pass protects for Glen Foley during the Jets' 27-17 preseason win over the Giants on August 20, 1998.BurnsLactionI

No offense to Billy Joel, but not everyone's always in a New York state of mind.

Lamont Burns, who was chosen by the Jets in the 1997 NFL Draft out of East Carolina, visited his grandmother in Harlem every summer. But the North Carolina native was a country boy at heart. More Mayberry than Manhattan.

"To be honest, I was a little sad (to be picked by the Jets)," Burns said. "For whatever reason, I was always afraid of coming to New York. The buildings and the lights and the people were a lot for me. So I was a little nervous, I guess that's the best word. But once I realized that I was going to be able to play professional football, that fear, it went away."

The only offensive lineman drafted by the Jets that year, Burns was the new kid in the group. And fortunately for him, that fear was replaced by friendship.

"Spearheaded by William Roberts and Jumbo Elliott and Siupeli Malamala, those veteran guys really took me in as one of their own because right before the season started, Harry Galbreath retired," Burns said. "He was one of the guards who was in front of me (on the depth chart), and so the team knew that at some point, I would have to play or play a role on the team, and help them out. So they embraced me."

Having spent only two seasons on the offensive line in college after beginning on defense, Burns was still learning the how to be a guard. Head Coach Bill Parcells, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and Bill Muir, the O-line coach, understood the unique position Burns was in.

"Coach Muir pulled me in multiple times and told me that I was raw, but that I had something. I had talent, an aggressiveness that he wanted to mold and to make into an excellent lineman. His main thing was getting me prepared and take the aggression and the athleticism to be a professional lineman," Burns said.

"Coach Parcells gave me a lot of advice. Some of it was hard advice, some of it was good advice. But the best advice that I took from Bill Parcells, and I take now, it's to always, always pay attention to detail.

"And in the football sense, early on, I was in awe of the crowd and of the people and sometimes I wouldn't know what the next play was. I would know what I had to do, but as a lineman, you have to know what the guy in front of you is doing. You have to know what the quarterback is doing. You have to know what the tackle beside you is doing. His advice was really to be very detail-oriented. Know everything that's going on. Not just your assignment, but everything that's going on."

Inactive for 11 of the first 12 games, and suiting-up but not playing in the other, the rookie would see his first action in Week 13 against the Bills.

"Every week, we were preparing to get me out there and start rotating time," Burns said. "And then it just so happened that week in Buffalo, Parcells came to me and said, 'I'm taking your floaties off. You're playing this week.' That was it.

"I remember stepping on the field, and Buffalo, as the current players will tell you, is a tough place to play. And thank God it wasn't freezing cold that day. But the first thing I noticed as I'm running on the field, even though I'd been on the field before in the preseason, was the amount of people who were there and excitement for their team. It's not something you can explain in words when you're just looking to see that. But that lasted about a minute until Bruce Smith lined up against me. Everything changed."

Indeed, it did.

Burns stepped into the starting lineup at left guard the following game at Giants Stadium against Indianapolis. And closed out the season doing the same at home against Tampa Bay and in Detroit.

"I was thankful again for William Roberts, having that veteran presence to be there and to tell me what to expect," Burns said. "I'm going against Warren Sapp. I'm going against some of the tough guys that we had to go against. But I was excited. I was confident in my ability. I always was. I just wanted to show it and compete. Show that I was worthy to play in the National Football League."

Working hard every week during the season preparing as if he was going to play, and then when he did and performed well, the plan was to keep the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder starting at left guard the following season.

The thing is, sometimes plans have to change. Which they did during the ensuing training camp.

"I had a variety of injuries. I had a concussion in practice going against James Farrior in just a regular drill. And then I came back from the concussion and hurt my Achilles. And for a 300-pound lineman, when he hurts his Achilles, that's a problem. And it went from the Achilles overcompensating to my ankle. I was in severe pain," Burns said.

"But I started the last preseason game (in Chicago). The plan was for me to be a starter (in the regular-season), but I couldn't move and I was afraid after being out with the concussion to say much to Coach Muir or Coach Parcells or Coach Weis. So I just tried to tough it out, which is a lesson learned, because they thought that there was other issues going on. But I was in severe pain. And not telling and not being upright, I think that was the beginning of the end for me."

The Jets waived Burns in 1998 with the intention of re-signing him.

"The plan all along was for me to heal mentally and physically and come back. They were concerned about, again, me not telling them about the injury and trying to fight through such a painful injury. So we were working together for me to come back," Burns said.

"However, my agent was more concerned about me being on the roster and not understanding what the plan was. And that's another lesson I learned. Their job is to keep you on the field. But when you have a relationship with a team, you want to let everyone know what's going on.

"So I went and tried out in Jacksonville. Now if anybody who knows what's going on, Coach Tom Coughlin is a good friend of who? Bill Parcells. So I'm in Jacksonville trying out, limping around, I wasn't ready to play. Coughlin came out and took one look and said, 'This guy can't move.' He went back in, but I'm sure he called his friend or the people with the Jets, 'What's this guy doing training? He's hurt.'"

Burns would go on to spend time on Philadelphia's practice squad and was inactive for a handful of games with Washington before concluding his playing career with the XFL's Las Vegas Vipers in 2001.

Not finding a playing career with New York for as long as he would have hoped, Burns, however, did discover something in the city that he was once afraid of – a home.

Settling on Long Island, Burns has worked at St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center in Roslyn since 2008. Initially in security, he moved to print operations and became a coordinator. But then after 10 years in that department…

"COVID came and the security supervisor came and asked would I consider coming back because a lot of the older security officers, no one knew what was going on with COVID," Burns said. "And everything ties back into football. I'm all about protecting the quarterback or protecting the running back or protecting people. That's what drew me to security in the first place, to be honest. So I decided to go back and now I'm a security supervisor."

Recently earning a master's degree in sports management from Adelphi University, Burns makes his home in Westbury, and has two adult children: Dyion and Omar; and two grandchildren: Destiny and Gabby.

And for the past 23 years, he's been the assistant head coach at Westbury High School.

"I have had opportunities to go to many other schools. Larger schools, colleges. But Westbury is a part of my life now. The kids, the families, the athletic director, the coaches. Me and the head coach, Savalis Charles, we started together. We've seen our kids grow up together," Burns said.

"Westbury is not a football powerhouse, by any means. But what I love most about it is the seeing kids coming from no football knowledge. We're teaching them their first time getting into a stance. Catching a football. A lot of the JV kids, we're building them to compete. And then the fact that we win three or four games every year, a lot of coaches wouldn't even believe it. It's amazing."

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