This week on the Heads 'N Tales podcast I interview current Detroit Lions fullback, Michael Burton. Mike had just finished his rookie season with the Lions prior to this interview, but he certainly didn't have an easy road to the National Football League (NFL). Mike and I played football together at West Morris Central high school and shared the backfield (Mike was the running back and I was the fullback) in my senior season. It was obvious from the very beginning when Mike was called up to Varsity that there was something special about him. I actually remember his first play, which was at inside linebacker, where he caused a fumble upon making impact with the ball carrier. Trust me, our coach didn't let us forget that the freshman was out there making plays!
In addition to his natural playmaker instincts, Mike also had a work ethic that has never been matched by anyone I have ever met. I would often drive Mike home after practice and winter lifting sessions, but before we did we always had to get in an extra run or ab session in. It's no mistake that he got to where he is today.
West Morris Central:
Mike Burton was an All-State running back, team captain and state champion for the West Morris Central Wolfpack in 2009. Anyone who was friends with him, played against him or watched him play knew he was destined for bigger and better things. I can tell you from personal experience that it was a lot of fun to watch Mike play. His combination of toughness, athleticism and heart is evident on every run, catch and block he makes.
Below is Burton's highlight tape from high school. At 1:37, Mike pulled off one of the most athletic moves I have ever seen a football player pull in all my years of playing and spectating. I was in the stands for this game and after that punt return for a touchdown, I had no doubt he could not only play at Rutgers, but also had what it takes to play on Sunday's.
Not only was I lucky enough to play with Mike in high school, but I was also fortunate enough to watch him for 4 seasons when I worked as a student equipment manager at Rutgers Football. I always dreamed of playing college football and watching Mike every Saturday was as close as I could get! Mike had multiple scholarship offers to division-one schools out of high school to play for teams like Lehigh, Towson and Maine. However, Mike chose to walk-on as a fullback at Rutgers University for Head Coach, Greg Schiano. I witnessed the hard work and dedication Mike put in to earn himself a scholarship and eventually be named a team captain. To this day, I have never met a more coachable or hard-working individual.
During his Rutgers playing days, Mike suffered an ankle injury that ended his junior season. In our interview, Mike had a great message for athletes who suffer season-ending injuries and that is "there is always something you can be doing to get better." Whether it is watching film, rehabbing or doing other modified exercises, there are plenty of opportunities to improve your game and become a better person, athlete or student.
Check out the video below where Burton is mic'd up at a Rutgers football practice. His intensity and drive on the field is second to none.
All of Mike's hard work and countless hours in the weight room finally paid off when he was invited to the 2015 NFL combine, and was ultimately drafted in the 5th round by the Detroit Lions. Burton kept a diary with the Detroit Free Press, which chronicled his rookie season. Click the following links to see what is was like for Mike in his first year in Detroit.
Make sure you download episode 33 to find out what its like playing with some of the best NFL players around. In addition, I hope young athletes today can find inspiration from Mike's journey to achieve their dreams just like he did. Lastly, if you take anything from this episode, I hope its that you realize hard work actually can pay off.
Check out the video below to see Mike's First NFL touchdown: