EAST LANSING, Mich. – Ron Burton, a 21-year coaching veteran who also played four seasons in the NFL, has been named the defensive line coach at Michigan State, seventh-year Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio announced on Friday, Feb. 8. Burton has spent the past 10 seasons as the defensive line coach at Air Force.
“We’re very excited about Ron Burton joining our coaching staff at Michigan State,” Dantonio said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge to the position. Ron coached at Air Force for the last 10 years, but he’s also coached in Michigan as well as in the Big Ten before.
“Ron played four years in the NFL and has been around some of the game’s top coaches at both the professional and collegiate levels. In the pros, he played for Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Gene Stallings, and he started his tenure at Air Force under Fisher DeBerry, one of college football’s great coaches.
“He was simply dynamic during the entire interview process. We had an opportunity to share some ideas last year in a professional development setting, and we believe Ron is a natural fit in terms of defensive terminology and concepts. He also brings great energy and management skills to the coaching staff. We look forward to seeing Ron interact with our players and watching our defensive linemen thrive under his teaching.
“We welcome Ron and his family to Mid-Michigan and the Spartan football family.”
“I had an opportunity to visit with Michigan State’s entire defensive staff during a professional development setting last year, and I was most impressed with everyone’s professionalism,” Burton said. “We sat and talked football, and I was simply amazed at how the staff handled things. I also had heard so many positives about Coach Dantonio from my peers – they all talked about his leadership and how he promoted a family atmosphere. Well, I got a first-hand glimpse of how the defensive staff did interact like a family.
“I’m excited about working with a Spartan defensive unit that has really established itself as one of the nation’s elite over the last three seasons. I’m looking forward to working for Coach Dantonio and alongside Pat Narduzzi, Mike Tressel and Harlon Barnett. Being presented with the opportunity to help grow and develop a great defensive front is really the icing on the cake for me.
“Coaching is really about teaching and developing relationships with the student-athletes both on and off the field. I want to help them pursue excellence in everything they do, develop character and integrity while growing into becoming a great player over time. I can’t wait to begin the hands-on teaching process with the defensive linemen, as the program continues its pursuit of winning championships.”
During his 10 seasons at Air Force, Burton helped the Falcons to a combined record of 67-57 (.540), including a school-record six consecutive postseason bowl appearances (2007-12), while developing some of the top defensive linemen in school history. Burton also served as the program’s NFL liaison.
In 2008, Jake Paulson became the first-ever defensive lineman at Air Force to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors after recording 14.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. One year later, nose guard Ben Garland was a second-team All-MWC selection and signed a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos. In the Falcons’ 2010 Independence Bowl victory over Georgia Tech, defensive lineman Rick Ricketts, a second-team All-MWC choice, was named the defensive most valuable player of the game. Burton also coached two-time Academic All-American (defensive end) Ryan Carter.
Before arriving at Air Force, Burton spent one season (2002) at Grand Valley State and helped lead the Lakers to a perfect 14-0 record and the 2002 NCAA Division II National Championship, the first in school history.
Burton has Big Ten coaching experience, as he spent five seasons as the linebackers coach at Indiana from 1997-2001. Burton mentored two Butkus Award nominees, Jabar Robinson and Justin Smith, during his time with the Hoosiers. Robinson led the team in tackles two-straight years and is eighth in school history with 339 career tackles, while Smith played one season (2003) in the NFL and ranks ninth in IU history with 326 tackles.
Burton also coached linebackers at Eastern Michigan for two seasons (1995-96) and landed his first full-time coaching position as the defensive backs coach at Morehead State (1994).
A four-year letterman (1982-86) at North Carolina, Burton helped the Tar Heels to three bowl appearances during his career and was named team captain and best defensive lineman as a senior. He graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in industrial relations in 1987.
Following graduation, Burton spent four seasons playing linebacker in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys (1987-89), Phoenix Cardinals (1989) and Los Angeles Raiders (1990). Burton started 15 games for the Cowboys in 1988 and recorded two sacks, and played on the 1990 Raiders team that advanced to the 1990 AFC Championship Game.
After his NFL career, Burton returned to North Carolina and spent two years as a graduate assistant (1992-93) for the Tar Heels.
Burton was an all-state selection as a linebacker at Highland Springs (Va.) High School.
A native of Highland Springs, Va., Burton and his wife, Andrea, have four children: Ronald, Ryan, Roya and Reid.