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Burrell working to realize NFL dream

New Mexico’s Jalin Burrell is excited for the opportunity to play in today’s NFLPA Cpllegiate Bowl. JOURNAL FILE

Jalin Burrell finally had time to relax as he settled in his room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

He recollected who he had just seen on the elevator, which served as a reminder of why he’s in LA. It also made him feel grateful.

Burrell, who recently completed his senior season as a defensive back for the New Mexico football team, shared an elevator ride with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

Within his first four days of preparation for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Burrell also saw Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

“It was cool to see those guys,” said Burrell, who will play in the postseason all-star game for draft-eligible college players today at the Rose Bowl. “It made me think that it’s just great to have the possibility of making my dream come true.”

Burrell is definitely working hard to make those dreams of playing in the NFL come true. He endured three straight 18-hour days of training, film-room meetings, motivational and life classes, and body and muscle treatments.

“It’s pretty grueling, but I love it,” said Burrell, who is set to graduate this spring with an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis on psychology.

Before arriving in LA, Burrell was training at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, Fla. He had been preparing for today’s game and the UNM pro day, which will take place March 7.

Burrell’s first thought of playing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl came as the Lobos were practicing for the game against Colorado State on Oct. 13. He said he received a text that he was being looked at for today’s game. Three weeks later, his invitation came.

It was something to celebrate, when there wasn’t much to celebrate. That game against Colorado State? It was the first of seven consecutive defeats to end the season for the Lobos, who finished 3-9, 1-7 in the Mountain West Conference.

“It wasn’t the season that we wanted, so this was a highlight,” Burrell said of his NFLPA Collegiate Bowl invitation. “I was super excited. There have been a lot of good people to learn from. I’m just really thankful to be a part of it.”

Burrell turned in a solid season amid the Lobos’ disappointing year with one interception, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and 52 tackles. That, he felt, validated the decision to switch from receiver to cornerback early on while playing for Moorpark Junior College in California.

“I didn’t like getting hit,” Burrell said. “I wanted to do the hitting.”

Burrell wants to continue delivering the hits at the Rose Bowl, then as a pro.

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