Alaska paratrooper inducted into athletics hall of fame
September 9, 2011
For some, the accomplishments of the past are just that. But Spc. Ron Burton's deeds back in college are a constant reminder of how excellence can guide the future.
Burton, a radiology technician assigned to 725th Brigade Support Battalion, was recently contacted by his alma mater, Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., and learned he will be inducted into the Missouri Southern Athletics Hall of Fame Oct. 22 for his outstanding achievements on the university's football team.
His athletic stats are nothing to scoff at: from 1990 to 1994 as a 200 lb. middle-linebacker he was first for tackles during his senior year with an average of 18-20 per game, he set the school record for tackles in a game with 21 against Missouri S&T;in 1993 and racked up a career total of 416. He also played on the university's 1st division, 2nd all-star league and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association all-star team in 1993.
His jersey number during this time was 20, perhaps foreshadowing to opposing teams how many times they could expect him to catch them unaware and knock them down. The number was retired in his honor when he graduated, as his high school jersey had been earlier.
Burton also holds the record for 2nd and 9th highest per-season tackle totals for the university and is seventh in career totals for the school.
"My nickname back then was Ron 'Hit-man' Burton," he said. "A friend that I played with gave me that name after I hit another player just inside the out of bounds line and we both landed 5 feet off the field. It was a good hit."
Not just an athlete, Burton also holds two degrees: a bachelor's in criminal justice and an associate's in law enforcement.
Not long after graduation, Burton tried his hand at professional football. While the American league told him he was too small, he launched a successful carrier in Europe, mainly Germany, with teams like the Frankfurt Knights, the Aschaffenburg Stallions, and the Russelsheim Razorbacks.
It was during his time in Germany that he met his future wife Biljana Burton, then a cheerleader for the Frankfurt Knights, and started a family which would later include their son Jovan Burton and daughter Maya Burton.
It wasn't long after their marriage that a trip to visit Burton's brother in Hawaii led them to decide to move there permanently. Burton's brother, a Chief Warrant Officer 3, was also later instrumental when Burton mulled the idea of military service.
Not one to be satisfied by just getting by, Burton's drive for success has recently awarded him promotable status and he will soon pin on the rank of sergeant. He has also recently earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, an award that can only be achieved through a demanding test of personal excellence and technical professionalism in the medical field.
Now at age 40, his wife has expressed worries about him occasionally considering playing professionally again. While he takes her advice to heart knowing she only has his best interests in mind, he feels his days with football may not be entirely over.
"I have an intense passion for the game, I've strongly considered coaching," said Burton, who served for a year as an assistant coach.
Burton said he enjoyed his past sports career and isn't bitter about never having been selected for the American league.
"You know, everything happens for a reason. The way I see it, going to Germany led me to meet my wife and have my kids. I think everything worked out just fine," he said.