EAST LANSING, Mich. — Ron Burton, a former Dallas Cowboys linebacker who had been the defensive line coach at Air Force, was named Friday to coach that same position group at Michigan State. He replaces Ted Gill, whose contract was not renewed after six seasons with the Spartans.
“We’re very excited about Ron Burton joining our coaching staff,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said in a release. “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.”
Burton also coached for current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on Grand Valley State’s 2002 NCAA Division II national championship team and for Indiana head coach Cam Cameron, 1997-2001. He finished his NFL career playing for Art Shell on the Los Angeles Raiders. Dick Crum coached Burton at North Carolina, 1982-86.
“He was simply dynamic during the entire interview process,” Dantonio said. “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.”
Burton also coached linebackers at Eastern Michigan in 1995 and 1996.
“I had an opportunity to visit with Michigan State’s entire defensive staff during a professional development setting last year,” Burton said, “I was most impressed with everyone’s professionalism. 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.”
Burton, also the NFL liaison at Air Force, developed some of the school’s best defensive linemen. Rick Ricketts was All-Mountain West Conference in 2010 and was named defensive most valuable player in the Independence Bowl. Nose guard Ben Garland was all-conference in 2009 and signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos. Jake Paulson, in 2007, was another first-team all-conference defensive lineman.
Burton mentored two Butkus Award nominees, Jabar Robinson and Justin Smith, during his time with the Hoosiers.
In his playing days, Burton helped the Tar Heels to three bowl appearances and was named team captain and best defensive lineman as a senior. He graduated from North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in industrial relations in 1987.
Burton then played for the Cowboys (1987-89), Cardinals (1989) and Raiders (1990). He started 15 games in 1988, and played on a team that advanced to the 1990 AFC Championship Game.
A native of Highland Springs, Va., Burton and his wife, Andrea, have four children: Ronald, Ryan, Roya and Reid.