The men behind Portland State football

Star players always receive their fair share of blame or credit when due, but perhaps the most scrutiny lies with any team’s coaching staff.

Star players always receive their fair share of blame or credit when due, but perhaps the most scrutiny lies with any team’s coaching staff. Head coach Nigel Burton was hired onto the Portland State football program in December of 2009 after the resignation of former NFL coach Jerry Glanville. Along with the hiring came the added responsibility of trying to help a once-proud program return to glory. Under Glanville, the Viks attained an underwhelming 9-24 record over three seasons that were filled with plenty of controversy.

Coach Burton, who’s currently coming up on his second season as head coach of the Vikings, has worked to get the program back on track. The work has not only been focused on trying to win games, but also in creating a sense of family among the players. While the pressures are great as a new head coach, Burton has been humble about his first year at the helm and the direction he’s taking the program.

“In terms of turning things around, I’ve been a little apart of doing things at different places and programs. Obviously at Nevada they were successful on offense, but on defensive they struggled. At Oregon State they had started a tradition of good defense, but were not all the way there yet and South Florida didn’t even have a program,” Burton said with a smile. “In terms of becoming the face of the program, I’m not sure I would necessarily say that, but it was interesting driving down the street and seeing a billboard with my ugly face on it, that was a little different. It kind of comes with the job, and I’m proud of this place and to be associated with it makes me feel really good.”

The journey hasn’t been quick or easy for Burton, but getting here was something he’s dreamed of since childhood. His extensive resume began over 10 years ago at South Florida, where he first found the opportunities to move up the coaching ladder. Burton spent two years coaching defensive backs at Portland State during the 2001–02 seasons, before moving onto Oregon State where he coached the secondary from 2003–07. In 2008, he joined the Nevada Wolfpack as a defensive coordinator and helped guide them to back-to-back bowl games. Burton has been a major contributor everywhere he’s been and has done so because of his passion for the sport.

“From the time I was a little kid I loved the game,” Burton said. “Growing up in Sacramento and being a big 49ers fan, it was great, but that’s not really why I made it a career though. I didn’t get into this to win football games. I think that’s just a fun result of the work we put in. I got in it because I like to see young men develop and know by the time they leave they are ready for the world and feel confident that they will be a success. That’s the best feeling a coach can have.”

With all his hard work, Burton enjoys some rest and relaxation too. Burton is a husband and father of two, and is passionate about spending time away from the turf to be with his family and friends. The occasional deep-tissue massage doesn’t hurt either.

“If I could ever afford a place in Maui I would be there,” Burton chuckled. “But this is a pretty all-encompassing job; you really can’t ever punch off the clock, you are responsible for 105 guys, and there is always something going on with one of them. It’s the nature of the job.”

Creating goals and philosophies to lead his team by has been a large part Burtons plan to bring the Viks back to a successful level on the field. While much of the responsibility rests on his shoulders, Burton surrounded himself with coaches he trusts to help lighten the load.

After being hired as head coach, Burton immediately brought on veteran coach Eric Jackson to take over the defensive coordinator position. Jackson has over 20 years of coaching experience at the college level and was an easy choice for Burton, since both shared the desire to help players succeed on and off the field. Burton was actually recruited out of high school by Jackson, who was the defensive coordinator at Cal Poly at the time.

While defense was not the strong point for the Viks last season, both coaches believe a more mature squad will be taking the field in 2011. Defense has been a major focus this spring, as expectations have been amplified during the offseason. Burton has created an environment that promotes confidence as well as competition, something that will be huge as the team looks to be able to once again get to champion contention.

“We will win a Big Sky Championship while we are here, there is no doubt about it,” Burton said with confidence. “I’m not the most patient guy all the time, and it’s a process and it does takes time, but we know what we have to do to get there.” ?