Chris Burkey used to go out scouting for blockers and tacklers.
Now, he’s got eyes out for a good jack-man or tire carrier.
The former Dolphins scout during the Nick Saban era has turned his attention to NASCAR, where he works for Hendrick Motorsports recruiting potential pit crew members.
“When you look at an athlete, it’s all about body movement and body mechanics, and that’s what we do in college sports,’’ said Burkey, who also coached football at Wingate, Tennessee Tech, and North Carolina. “We try to find those fundamentals with those guys and try to fine-tune those to make them better players.”
According to a story in the Boston Globe, the athletic requirements Burkey’s looking for are remarkably similar. Get low, use leverage, strength, explosiveness. That’s universal whether trying to get off the line of scrimmage or haul a tire over a wall. He even holds combines where former athletes from baseball to hockey players also try out.
“The big thing is foot quickness, agility, and body position and body control,’’ Burkey said. “Those are the things I look for at all the combines I hold. If you’re an athlete who played Division 1 football or baseball, then you’ve got a lot of those [skills]. I just have to find and separate those athletes somehow and that’s why I have those combines.
“I’m not looking for the NFL guys who are going to get drafted or the Major League Baseball prospects. I may be looking for them after their careers are over, but I’m not looking for those cats when I go into a school. I’m not looking at the No. 1 draft picks. I want the good athletes who want to compete and want to extend their competitive drive for another 8-10 years or whatever, so I’ll bring those guys in.’’
Burkey’s one of the first of his kind, but there are plenty of football inroads in NASCAR. Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs owns a race team, and a number of former college players have made their way into the pits.