Some people think Tom Burgess could be an NFL superstar by now; he believes he could be an NFL player agent.
Burgess, back in England for the current Test series against Tonga, will complete something of a circle when South Sydney heads to Las Vegas for round one next year when they take on the Sea Eagles at Allegiant Stadium.
A year after the Rabbitohs’ drought-breaking 2014 premiership, Burgess headed to America and trialled with New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers – flown around and put up at plush hotels by the wealthy NFL franchises.
One of rugby league’s most famous sets of brothers had a choice to make, opting instead to board a plane back to Sydney after convincing himself that a life in the NFL would leave him ‘bored’.
But it’s what he learned about the sport that gave Burgess a rather valuable piece of advice to a player in the younger grades at Souths at the time – telling the 2.03m-tall Jordan Mailata that he was in the wrong spot after ducking to get through a doorway at the Rabbitohs’ training base.
Mailata is now on a US$64 million contract over four years at the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
“I missed out there, didn’t I?” Burgess told NRL.com after the England team photo was taken at Wigan’s Robin Park, with former internationals Gareth Ellis, Denis Betts, Tony Smith, Sam Tomkins and Karl Harrison visiting camp.
“Oh, he’s a big boy. He’s massive.
“He was struggling to get his weight down but then he went over there and they put weight on him.
It’s a different sport, very specialised positions and he suited that one down to the ground. He was a perfect specimen for that position.
“He probably had [thought of the NFL]. But maybe – I don’t know – he held back. But he’s got out there and backed himself and it’s great to see. I’m happy for him.”
Burgess was a special guest at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the week before the Test series began, when Baltimore Ravens took on the Tennessee Titans.
He’s an avid fan of the sport – as a spectator – and wouldn’t rule out a sojourn in the code at some point in his career.
“I was definitely looking at going down that track,” he said of his dalliance with the American game.
“I was serious about it because I was there. It’s something I’m glad I went and had a look at but then I realised it wasn’t for me. There’s an element of [not] having grown up with the game but for me, I’m used to action all the time.
“And I think I probably would have got bored playing that sport. No disrespect to the sport. I love it. It’s a great sport.
“I got the offer [to extend] from Souths and I just went ‘I’ll sign with Souths’.”