Today’s post is a celebration of the birth of a special Michigan Man named Tirrel Burton. Mr. Burton was born on this date in 1929 at Oxford, Ohio. Yes, he was a Buckeye by birth, but a Michigan Man by choice.
(Note-Tirrel Burton is shown above with the 1970 Michigan Football Coaching Staff. He is standing in the back row – second man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Tirrel Burton was an outstanding high school athlete in Ohio (football and track). He was recruited by Are Parseghian to play at football at Miami of Ohio. By the time he finished his athletic career at Miami, Tirrel Burton was a championship football player, record-setting track athlete. He also earned All-Conference honors in football and track. Yes, he had a great career at Miami from 1953-1955. Tirrel Burton was inducted into the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame (1974)
After college, Burton played in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Ottawa Rough Riders. He played offense and defense and led the CFL with 8 interceptions in 1956. Tirrel also averaged over 5-yards per carry on offense and scored 4 touchdowns.
Burton returned to Miami to earn a Master’s Degree in Physical Education in 1962. He started his “work” career as a teacher and coach in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tirrel worked in Cincinnati from 1962 to 1968. Then, the talented Burton went to work at Central State College. He was hired to coach football at the historically black college in 1968. In 1969, Bill Mallory lured Tirrel back to Miami to coach football at his alma mater.
Once again, Tirrel Burton kept working hard and people noticed. One man who noticed Tirrel’s work was a guy named Bo Schembechler. Bo lured Mr. Burton away from Miami in 1970. Despite his love for Miami, Burton knew that he could not turn down the opportunity to coach for Bo and Michigan. As it turned out, that was the last time Tirrel Burton ever moved!
Bo Lured Burton to Ann Arbor – For Life!
Tirrel Burton coached the freshman team at Michigan from 1970 to 1971. Then, he coached Michigan’s receivers. Yes, he taught them to block first and catch second! Jim Smith, one of his best pupils, earned first team All-American honors in 1976.
Then, Bo gave Tirrel another challenge in the 1980. Burton took charge of Michigan’s running backs. Tirrel coached a lot of excellent ball carriers from 1980 to 1991. His best student was probably Butch Woolfolk who earned All-American honors in 1981.
Tirrel Burton remained the Michigan running backs coach until his retirement in May 1992. He continued to work at Michigan in an administrative capacity for five years before he became a full-time “golf” retiree.
Tirrel Burton had a 27-year association with The University of Michigan. During his association, he earned the respect of his players, peers, and everyone in the Michigan community. He was a “class act” who always gave his best and brought out the best in his players.
So, please take a moment to appreciate a wonderful Michigan Man. Tirrel Burton was the first African-American football coach ever hired at Michigan. To his credit, he turned out to be a great coach, not a black coach! And, he was even a better man. Tirrell Burton made valuable contributions to Michigan as a coach and administrator. Sadly, Tirrel Burton died on January 17, 2017 at the age of eighty-seven. May Tirrel Burton continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
To read more about the life of Tirrel Burton go to the links below:
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