ATLANTA — When Nathan Burton moved home, he really moved home.
“I'm living with my parents in Lilburn right now,” Burton said with a smile after Georgia Tech's football practice Tuesday. “We were out for a birthday party the other night and I had to be home by 11, you know.”
Burton was hired as the Yellow Jackets' co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in January. The Greater Atlanta Christian grad is back at his alma mater and enjoying each moment.
“It's a shock every day and a pleasure that I get to come home and be here every day,” Burton said. “It still hasn't (sunk in).”
Burton walked on at Tech in 2001 and became a four-year letter winner. He was a graduate assistant at the school from 2005-08.
His enthusiasm, and that of head coach Geoff Collins, is pervasive.
“It's awesome,” safety Christian Campbell said, grinning immediately when asked about working with Burton. “I feel like he's a college student just like me. He literally was in the same position I'm in. He went to Georgia Tech. He played safety. So he knows what's going on. He can understand what it's like. He jokes with us. It's awesome.”
Collins brought Burton, and defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, with him from Temple. Last year, the Owls ranked fifth nationally with 18 interceptions under Burton's guidance.
Burton inherited a talented secondary that includes Campbell, Juanyeh Thomas, Kaleb Oliver, Gentry Bonds and Tariq Carpenter.
He joked about not being able to show off his coaching ability as much because of it.
“Really, I was hoping they'd be the worst group so I could really be the best coach,” he said. “But, yeah, I'm just thankful for the guys I have. They play well, they're a smart young group and they're getting better. The best thing about them is they want to do well. They want to succeed and they also want to see their teammates succeed.
“We've got some elite depth and we're going to continue to build that.”
Burton and the defensive staff are focused on using everyone to their best effect.
“Everyone practices and learns each position,” Campbell said. “Defensively we're not running schemes to fit the offense. We're running schemes that fit our players. So we run things that our players will succeed at.”
Technique is another point of emphasis.
“He's a technique guy because, you know, he played here and said he was a walk-on and the reason why he played is because he had good technique,” Carpenter said. “He's just all about that and he's all about effort.”
Carpenter was going through some family issues when the new staff came in and a long talk with Burton made a difference.
“Man, he's an amazing guy,” Carpenter said. “Lately, I've had some personal issues with my family and it was actually at a time where I felt like I wanted to take a break, but he talked to me and he brought me back to the sport that I love. So I'm glad he's here.”
Burton has coached at N.C. State, West Alabama, Shorter, Tennessee-Martin and Oklahoma State since leaving the Flats in 2008. He and his wife, Britney (also a 2005 Tech grad) have four sons — and are all living with his parents right now.
“It feels great to be home,” Burton said. “I'm thankful for Coach Collins bringing me here. Working with these guys every day, they give us their all. Everything we're laying down, they're picking up. It's a fun group to coach.”