Ron Burton Sr. was an extremely impoverished young boy growing up in Springfield, Ohio who essentially had no parents. His mother passed while he was in middle school and his father became very ill. Ron was moved out of that home to be cared for by other family members. Thankfully, his grandmother who was a gospel preacher, kept young Ron fed and clothed through the church.
Because of his parental situation, his grandmother kept him in the church to keep an eye on him. He was scorned and laughed at by other kids because of his extreme poverty and lack of athletic talent. Ron was predictably the last child to be chosen for any game or team by other kids. Constantly teased and belittled by his classmates, his middle school administration added insult to injury by not allowing young Ron to try out for the football team. Being of frail build and with no guidance in sports, his middle school actually feared for his well being and Ron was the only student to whom the school refused to give a football uniform.
After pleading to be on the team, the administration felt sorry for him and finally gave him a uniform. He sat on the bench for two straight years and was never allowed in a game. It wasn’t until the last game of his eighth grade year that Ron was able to get into a game. The game, already being won, still held 35 seconds on the clock which needed to be run down for the competition to end. They called Ron Burton in because the team had all but run out of uninjured players. If the ball could be run just two yards, it would give Ron’s team a first down and the clock would run out without a change of possession. Ron ran the ball for ten yards and was tackled, the game was over.
But because it was the last game of the season, many of the high school coaches had come to scout the upcoming talent for the next year. One coach approached Ron and commented on his lack of size, speed and overall athletic ability. However, he said, if you really want to be great at this sport, you should consider waking up very early each morning during the summer months and running distance. Young Ron Burton, anxious, and curious asked the coach how far he should run and how often and at what time. The coach replied, “Five days a week, seven miles a day, 4:30 a.m.”
This particular coach had no idea he was counseling a young boy who was willing to do anything to stop the other kids from teasing him and find a way to end the laughter at his poverty, lack of athletic talent and the fact that he had to sing in the church choir. On June 22nd young Ron Burton ended his eighth grade year. On June 23rd he woke up at 4:30 a.m. and began building up to run seven miles per day. Ron did this for twelve straight years.
Ron Burton Sr. became a high school All-American; earned 47 scholarships to major colleges and universities around the country; attended Big Ten’s, Northwestern University; became a college All-American and went on to become the first round draft choice in the NFL, the AFL and the Canadian Football League. He played six years for the New England Patriots and is now in the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.
The Ron Burton Training Village (RBTV) began as the effort of one man and his family trying to reach out and help kids in the Boston and New England area. The goal was to reach the meek and downtrodden. RBTV exists to assist in the growth of the children who appear to have no chance; and let them know that there are people who care specifically about their plight; and that there is a light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel of darkness. Never did we dream almost 20 years ago it would go this far.
A man of humble roots, Burton developed into an All-Ohio and All-America high school football player whose talents prompted scholarship offers from 47 different schools. Opting for Northwestern University, Burton’s development continued to the point where he was named the NCAA Back of the Year and nominated for the Heisman Trophy in 1959. He was selected in the first round by the AFL’s Patriots and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in their respective league’s drafts.
During his prime, Burton was a football player multi-talented enough to exceed 1,000 yards in three categories – rushing (1,536), receiving (1,205) and as a kickoff return man (1,119) – and add 389 yards in punt returns over six seasons with the Patriots. In 1962, Burton rushed for a team-leading 548 yards, caught 40 passes for 461 yards, returned 13 kicks for 238 yards and 21 punts for 122 yards, amassing 1,389 all-purpose yards. Following that stellar campaign, he earned the distinction of being named winner of the 1776 Club’s first Patriots Most Valuable Player award, for a Mike Holovak-coached team that went 9-4-1.(The above text is an excerpt from the New England Patriots Gameday Magazine – August 27, 2003 article, “Ron Burton: Leading by Example” By Glen Farley)
(Based on return yardage)