After five Division II coaching stops, inspiring Charles Burks is Dolphins CB coach

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
Miami Dolphins cornerbacks coach Charles Burks

Charles Burks, the first-year Miami Dolphins cornerbacks coach, is patiently allowing you to run through all the previous stops listed in his LinkedIn bio.

East Central University... West Texas A&M... Texas A&M University-Commerce... Southeastern Oklahoma State University... Arkansas Tech.

"All of those schools you named are Division II schools, so I’m a small school guy," Burks said. "I’ve always wanted to coach at the highest level and compete with the coaches at the highest level and coach the best players. In each stop that I was able to have, the most important thing for me were my players. The most important thing for me was improving them."

It's safe to say there weren't players that looked or played like Xavien Howard or Byron Jones at the Division II level. 

 "Football is football no matter where you’re at," Burks said.

Brian Flores promoted Charles Burks within Dolphins' staff

Burks was promoted to cornerbacks coach in January, after two years as a coaching assistant on Brian Flores' staff. He's also worked closely with defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who cut his teeth at small schools like Bryant and South Dakota School of Mines.

"To be able to be put into position to learn from those guys, to make myself a better coach in this league, it’s very humbling," Burks said. "It was a difficult process but it made me better each day. So I’m definitely thankful to be here working with these guys that we have in the secondary and really to raise the standard in the secondary.”

Boyer once recalled how he grew as a coach at Mines.

"We just didn’t have a lot of guys in the program at the time," Boyer said. "I would say one of our corners was a running back. The other one was really an outside linebacker, so we were kind of moving guys all around there."

Burks recalled some of the unique aspects of Division II football.

"Those guys are on partial scholarships and I have to make those guys peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and have pizza dinners and everything," Burks said with a smile. "Now my guys in the NFL, they really don’t want any peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They’re good. They’re good on that."

Burks was asked what he might tell a younger coach who is wondering if it's possible to make the leap from a place like West Texas A&M to the NFL.

"As far as younger coaches that are going through that process, I would just say be where your feet are," Burks said. "The most important opportunity that you have is the one that you’re at right now. I feel that if we take that approach as coaches and we concentrate on the people – which are right in front of us, which are our kids – I think wherever you go will be a fulfilling journey for you."

'Start with honesty and respect'

Last year, Flores and defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander both went out of their way to compliment the job Burks was doing in working with Miami's cornerbacks. Flores then rewarded Burks based on his work ethic and approach to teaching.

This week, Flores explained that Burks was recommended to him by John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which is committed to equal opportunity in football.

"Chuck was a good find," Flores said. "He did well on the interview. We hired him. He’s done a great job the last few years and he’s climbing the ranks. He’s a very good coach. He’s a good teacher, a good communicator. I love him. He’s got great relationships with the players, great rapport with the players and I think he’s a very good coach.”

Burks describes himself as a teacher, motivator and humanist.

"My approach is that players are people," Burks said. "And I think that people, given honesty and respect, if you start there – bottom line before you give any critique, before you give any demand, if you start with honesty and respect, you can really coach the man first and then that gives you a chance to coach the player."

Last season, then-rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, without prompting, mentioned how Burks was aiding his development.

"My cornerbacks coach Charles Burks, has taught me a lot about this game," Igbinoghene said. "There’s a lot of things I didn’t know coming in that I thought I knew."

All Miami coaches stress fundamentals and technique. But Flores also wants assistants with relentless attention to detail and a passion for their job. There is joy in work, Flores says. 

In describing how important it is for any person to embrace their current challenge, Burks put into perspective the enthusiasm he felt at those Division II stops.

"Southeastern Oklahoma State, for me, was my USC," Burks said. "It was the best college that I’ve ever been to. Texas A&M-Commerce or West Texas A&M, that was my big time. That’s how I really wanted to approach each school because when that next jump happened, I didn’t want to put that jump on a pedestal because football is football no matter where you’re at."