2015 Big Ten Receiver of the Year had a school single-season record 85 receptions for 1,258 yards and seven touchdowns.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge, who set career highs for receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions as a senior, has been selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round (No. 213 overall) in the 2016 National Football League Draft on Saturday, April 30.
The 2015 team MVP becomes the six Spartan wide receiver to be drafted in Mark Dantonio’s first nine seasons as head coach, joining Devin Thomas (2008: Washington Redskins – second round), Keshawn Martin (2012: Houston Texans – fourth round), B.J. Cunningham (2012: Miami Dolphins – sixth round), Tony Lippett (2015: Miami Dolphins – fifth round) and Keith Mumphery (2015: Houston Texans – fifth round).
The 2015 Richter-Howard Big Ten Receiver of the Year, Burbridge became the second Spartan in a row to win the award (Lippett, 2014) after leading the conference in receptions (85; 6.1 per game) and receiving yards (1,258; 89.9 ypg.). The 85 receptions set an MSU single-season record and the 1,258 receiving yards were the fifth most in an MSU single-season. Those figures also ranked among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in receiving yards (16th with 1,258), receiving yards per game (19th with 89.9 ypg.) and receptions (29th at 6.1 pg.).
A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media and an honorable mention All-American by SI.com, Burbridge became just the third Spartan to lead the Big Ten in receiving yards (Charles Rogers, 2002; Lippett, 2014) and only the second to lead the conference in receptions (Kirk Gibson, 1976 and 1978). Burbridge also led the team and ranked ninth in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (1,302; 93.0 ypg.). In addition to receptions and receiving yards, Burbridge ranked among MSU’s single-season leaders in 100-yard receiving games (tied for second with 7) and TD catches (tied for 12th with 7). His seven 100-yard receiving games, which included a stretch of four straight (Rutgers, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska), were one shy of the MSU single-season record set by Cunningham in 2011, and the seven receiving TDs ranked first on the team and tied for fourth most in the Big Ten.
Burbridge led MSU in receiving in 12 of 14 games and had 21 receptions of 20-plus yards. Sixty-one of his 85 catches resulted in either a touchdown or first down (72 percent).
“Aaron Burbridge emerged as a dynamic playmaker in the passing game and played his best football as a senior,” Dantonio said. “He made a ton of 50/50 receptions, gained a lot of yards after the catch and he’d go up and catch the ball in a crowd. Aaron definitely took advantage of most of his one-on-one opportunities and made big play after big play last season. He played with confidence and an aggressive mentality and was deserving of being selected Big Ten Receiver of the Year.
“As (former San Diego Chargers receiver) John ‘J.J.’ Jefferson once described, Aaron could catch a BB in the dark. Aaron displayed his potential as a go-to receiver as a true freshman, and he really had a phenomenal career. He also was a physical blocker in the run game.”
“Aaron Burbridge is one of the most-determined players I’ve ever coached,” MSU wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel said. “He truly enjoyed the moments that the team needed him to make a play or plays. ‘Burb’ was a clutch player, who was willing to do whatever he had to do to help us win.”
The 6-foot, 206-pound Burbridge had five receptions for 39 yards in the College Football Playoff Semifinal vs. No. 2 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. In the Big Ten Championship Game vs. No. 4 Iowa, he established a Michigan State single-season record for receptions with his 80th catch of the year on a third-and-8 play in the fourth quarter that kept MSU’s eventual game-winning touchdown drive alive; the 16-yard grab was his fifth of the game and he finished with a team-high five receptions for 61 yards. Burbridge led the team with six catches for 75 yards on Senior Day against Penn State, including a 29-yard touchdown reception from Connor Cook in the third quarter in which he eluded several tacklers on his way into the end zone.
Burbridge tied his career high with 10 catches and established a career high for receiving yards with 164 at Nebraska on Nov. 7; he also had a 33-yard TD catch in the third quarter. It marked Burbridge’s fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game and his seventh of the season. His 164 receiving yards were the most ever by a Spartan wide receiver against the Huskers.
In MSU’s 27-23 win over No. 12 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 17, Burbridge hauled in nine catches for 132 yards while being matched up against All-Big Ten first-team cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Burbridge recorded a career-high 10 receptions and had 156 receiving yards in the win at Rutgers.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan, native was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after setting a career high with three touchdown catches in the win over Air Force in Week 3; he had eight receptions overall for 156 yards against the Falcons. He scored on TD grabs of 28, 32 and 21 yards from Cook. Burbridge’s first TD grab was an acrobatic reception in the corner of the end zone that was named one of the top plays of the week by several national media outlets.
His three TD receptions tied MSU’s single-game record (last player: Cunningham vs. Wisconsin, 2011 Big Ten Championship Game), and it also marked Burbridge’s third-straight 100-yard receiving game. He topped the 100-yard receiving mark in the first half alone, with five catches for 112 yards and two TDs.
A four-year letterwinner, Burbridge had 165 catches for 2,174 yards (13.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns in 51 career games, including 23 starts. He finished his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in receptions (second with 165), 100-yard receiving games (fifth with eight), receiving yards (seventh with 2,174) and TD catches (tied for 20th with 10).
Burbridge had two receptions for 43 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown catch as time expired, in the 2016 Senior Bowl.