Trey Burton threw the Philly Special and then overcame the anxiety that followed

Matt Breen, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

PHILADELPHIA — Trey Burton threw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl nine months earlier, seemingly making him the best option on the Chicago Bears to run a similar trick play midway through the 2018 season. The coaching staff introduced the formation — which closely resembled the “Philly Special” — and assigned Burton to handle the same role he did for the Eagles.

A running back would take the snap before pitching it to Burton as he ran through the backfield. Burton, who played quarterback in high school, was then to lob a pass to the end zone. Easy enough for Burton, who completed the Philly Special — a play etched forever in the city’s sports lore — five years ago this month.

Except Burton told the Chicago coaches he could not do it. It looked so effortless and easy when Burton hit Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. But it didn’t translate that October to the Bears practice field. It felt like a mental block, Burton told them.

The play brought anxiety, which Burton suffered from since high school but was able to remedy after diving into his Christian faith during his junior year at the University of Florida. This — reliving the greatest moment of his career on a different team with new teammates — was too much.

“It just seemed too soon,” Burton said. “It was an important play and an important time in my life that was really special … Why would I do it again? I did it in the Super Bowl. If you can give me another reason why I would do it again then maybe I’d reconsider it. One time is good enough for me. I’m not a greedy guy. It happened and I’m cool with it.”

Philly, Philly


The Eagles called Burton after the conclusion of the 2014 NFL draft, offering him a spot in training camp after he was not one of the 256 players selected. He played quarterback, fullback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and special teams at Florida. The Eagles told him they simply saw him as an “athlete,” declining to assign a position to the jack-of-all-trades.

That was enough for Burton, who just wanted a shot.

He carved a role as a vital special teamer before playing more offensive snaps in his third season. A year later, the Eagles entered the 2017 postseason as the NFC’s top seed and Burton caught five touchdowns. Once undrafted, Burton became a valuable part of the league’s best team.

While the Eagles enjoyed a first-round bye, the coaching staff introduced a new play: The Philly Special. Burton was selected to finish the trick play by throwing a pass. He was ready during the first two postseason games — wins over Atlanta and Minnesota — to run the gadget play but it was never called.


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