“Your man from the photo won the Premiership, didn’t he?” Those words were among the last a Leicester fan said to his grandson after Tigers clinched last season’s Grand Final against Saracens.
The player in the photo was Freddie Burns, whose last-minute drop-goal sealed the dramatic victory and capped Tigers’ sensational return to the summit of English rugby union after years of struggle.
Shortly after Leicester lifted the trophy, the supporter passed away.
His grandson – who asked to remain anonymous – chose to share the emotional memory with Burns after the 32-year-old announced he would leave the defending champions to move to the Highlanders in New Zealand.
Burns cried as he read out the letter during an interview with BBC Radio Leicester, saying “the emotion you can hear has been bubbling up for a couple of weeks”.
“Something like that makes it hard to leave,” a tearful Burns said.
“To know I’ve had a moment that has given people those moments with their family, and especially someone coming to the end of their life and cherishing the memories means the world.”
The versatile fly-half, who has had two stints with Leicester since 2014, will make his 115th and final appearance for Tigers in their East Midlands derby at home against Northampton Saints on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t want to go any other way really,” said Burns.
“Of course I’ll think about it being my last game and the emotion I have around it.
“But when I get in the changing room and put that shirt on, my role on Saturday is to cherish every moment and give it my all, like I always have, and hopefully walk away with the win.”
Burns credits that attitude for helping him deliver the most famous kick in the club’s history, landing the the drop-goal that won them an 11th Premiership title – and first for nine years – last season.
On his return to Mattioli Woods Welford Road in 2021, Burns said he knew England fly-half George Ford would “rightly be first choice”. And so he decided not to “get bogged down in necessarily playing well”.
“I just wanted to come back, wear that shirt and play for this club, at this place one more time,” he said.
“I knew if I went out and cherished every moment, that is when I do play my best rugby. I think Tigers got the best of me last year, for sure.”