SUNY Cortland WR Cole Burgess talks NFL interest, winning D-III National Championship

Cole Burgess is looking to make the jump from Division III to the NFL
Jets helmet
Jets helmet / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

SUNY Cortland hasn't had a player drafted to the NFL since 1967. Only one player in school history has even suited up for an NFL game. Cortland wide receiver Cole Burgess is looking to buck that trend and make some history in the process.

Burgess has managed to find himself on the NFL's radar as a result of a magical season that saw him break numerous school records en route to winning the program its first Division III National Championship.

But making the jump from Division III to the NFL is a daunting task — one we don't see accomplished very often. Nonetheless, Burgess made waves at his pro days during the pre-draft process and has a legitimate chance to be drafted this week.

The Athletic's Dane Brugler ranked Burgess as the No. 48 wide receiver in this draft class ahead of many top Division I athletes. His 9.80 Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is among the highest of any wideout in this class.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak with the former Cortland standout about his football journey, the NFL Draft process, and his NFL future.

Below is only a partial transcription of our interview. To watch the interview in its entirety, be sure to click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss out on any additional content.

Cole Burgess on growing up a NY Jets fan

Justin Fried: "You're an upstate New York guy. Was there any particular football team you were a fan of growing up?"

Cole Burgess: "Yeah. Actually, it happens to be the Jets. I was a Jets fan. I've been a Jets fan since I was seven or eight years old."

JF: "What are some of your favorite memories growing up as a Jets fan?"

CB: "Honestly, it's been kind of rough. The only time I really enjoyed watching the Jets was the Mark Sanchez era when we went to the AFC Championship two years in a row. Unfortunately, that didn't turn out well, but those are some good memories. Shonn Greene was one of my favorite players."

Cole Burgess on playing multiple sports at Cortland

JF: "You grew up playing both football and baseball all throughout high school and ran track as well. What was it that made you decide to stop playing baseball eventually at Cortland?"

CB: "So I actually got recruited [to play baseball]. My initial recruitment to Cortland was from Coach [Joe] Brown on the baseball team. And after that, he reached out to the football coach at the time, and he said, 'Hey I got a guy who I think can help you out. He's interested in playing.' And then the rest is history. I played football and baseball my freshman year before I decided I just wanted to focus on football. I played a lot of baseball growing up between summer league, school ball, and little league, so I was kind of baseballed out. My shoulders couldn't really handle it anymore either from all the football injuries, so it worked out that way."

Cole Burgess on why he chose to attend SUNY Cortland

JF: "What was it that made you choose Cortland as your school?"

CB: "I liked Cortland — the whole campus was nice. My mom actually graduated from Cortland. And, yeah, I just like the Cortland red. The school is cheap. SUNY helps out New York residents. So it just had everything for me, and the fact that I could play football and baseball there, it was kind of a no-brainer."

Cole Burgess on the 2023 season

JF: "Let’s talk about this past season because it was a special one not only for yourself but for your team. You set multiple school records, were named first-team All-American, and finished with almost 1,400 yards. What do you think clicked for you this past year that allowed you to shine in the way that you did?"

CB: "We just had weapons all over the field. JJ Laap on the other side of me. If they don't pay attention to him, he's going to go long. And Zac [Boyes] is going to throw him the ball. Not to mention, Zac, another All-American quarterback who's the facilitator of our offense. Jaden AlfanoStJohn, our All-American running back. We had a great offensive line. We had wide receivers who stepped up through injury, Joe Iadevaio and Andrew Tarpey. We had great tight ends who not only blocked but made some big plays down the line when we needed them to. We really had everything clicking on offense and got to show that off on a national stage. And I can't forget about Coach [Curt Fitzpatrick]. He was basically on the field with us."

Cole Burgess on winning the D-III National Championship

JF: "What did it mean to you to win the National Championship? How special was that moment for you?"

CB: "It was to this point, the best moment of my life. I can say that wholeheartedly. Up until this point, I always knew the Cortland pride and how everybody loved being a Cortland alum, but I didn't really realize the magnitude of it until we won that National Championship. From the alumni that showed up to the game to all the the videos and posts I saw on social media, it showed just how much that win and that season meant to not just us on the field, but everybody who went through Cortland at some point. After we won, everybody from the bleachers came on the field, and I was hugging people I'd never met before. But I was hugging them like I had known them my whole life. Just the amount of smiles and the pure joy in every single person was something I'll never forget. It feels like it was 10 years ago already, but it was only five or six months ago."

Cole Burgess on working out at Syracuse and Buffalo's pro days

JF: "You had the opportunity to work out, alongside your teammate JJ Laap, at both Syracuse’s and Buffalo’s pro days. What was that like for you?"

CB: "That was probably the most nerves I've ever felt. Well, I don't know if it was nerves or excitement, but the feeling I had inside of me when I was standing on the line for the broad jump, and I just saw everybody looking at me, I didn't even feel that in the National Championship. It was just a cool experience, though. I feel like I knocked my pro days out of the park. Coming from Division III, the odds are stacked against me. The first step in the whole process, besides the stats, is to kill the pro day. If I don't have the numbers, they're not even going to look at me again. I had to put up elite numbers if I even wanted the chance to be drafted, and I did that. Now, the work is done, and we just got to put the rest in God's hands and hope it works out in our favor."

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Cole Burgess on his favorite wide receivers

JF: "Are there any NFL players, I imagine wide receivers, that you admire and model your game after?"

CB: "I'm a big Ja'Marr Chase guy. I loved the Giants' Odell [Beckham Jr.]. He was one of my favorite players. Those are two guys I really look up to in terms of wide receivers."

Cole Burgess on meeting with the NY Jets and other NFL teams

JF: "I’m sure the pre-draft process has been exciting but also probably a little exhausting. Can you share any details about what teams you might’ve met with throughout this process? Anything from the Jets?"

CB: "I've had a few Zoom meetings with the Seahawks, Chiefs, Bears, and Bengals. I've had a bunch of teams just reach out and basically say, 'Hey, congrats on a great pro day.' We'll see what happens. I don't know what any of it means. I don't know if it means anything. I spoke to the Jets at both my pro days, but I haven't spoken to them since then."