He went a long way to arrive 70 miles from home.

70 miles. That’s how far it is from LaGrange, Georgia, where Dialleo Burks was a receiver for the LaGrange, GA High School football team – a team which USA Today ranked number 1 in the nation in
1991 – to Atlanta, where Burks toils as a WR/LB for the Georgia Force in the Arena Football League.

In between were more stops, and more destinations, than most have in a lifetime.

From Eastern Kentucky, where Burks played as a receiver in a run-oriented offense, to the Philadelphia Eagles, to tryouts with the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts, to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, to the Carolina Panthers, to the Orlando Rage of the XFL, to the Dallas Desperados of the AFL and finally to Atlanta and the Force. Along the way, interspersed with the football destinations, were other stops – jobs, relationship, struggles, triumphs, setbacks – the usual things that make up life.

It’s been a long road, and Burks is feeling right at home.

In more ways than one.

He enjoys Arena football. He enjoys the opportunity to go both ways that is unique to the AFL. He particularly enjoys playing defense, since it’s new to him and the challenge is great, and there’s the possibility of demonstrating an entirely different set of skills.

Football, for Burks, is fun.

“Everyone know
s the NFL is a money business,” he says. “The AFL is not about the money. There’s not much money so the best players play. You get to do what you love to do. You get to touch the ball and score. You might be in the NFL as a wide receiver but never get to touch the ball.”

Burks talked about the difference between the NFL and the AFL. He related what someone had once told him: “The only difference between the NFL and the AFL is that the NFL players are better straight ahead. Arena players are better side-to-side. The field is small so you have to be shifty.”

Of course, should an NFL team call and offer a tryout, Burks would consider it. His family, which includes his wife and two children, a four-year old daughter and a two-year old son, is well established in the Atlanta area. After moving so many times, there is a certain comfort in feeling settled. And yet, if the right opportunity presented itself, Burks would probably accept the challenge. The NFL is still part of his dream.

And if the NFL never calls, Burks is happy playing Arena ball. He considers himself to be a young 30, with a body that doesn’t have too much football wear on it, so he sees himself playing for quite a few years. “I’m still ready,” he says, “There’s still a lot of mileage left on these legs.”

Of course there’s a lot of mileage left – he’s only gone 70 miles from home.