Thursday, September 13, 2012

Former Husky Nigel Burton returns to coach against the Huskies

By Kshell

This week the Washington Huskies(1-1) will  host the Portland State Vikings(1-1) which will have a familiar face on their sideline. The Vikings head coach is Nigel Burton who played for the Huskies from 1996-98 including being a captain in 1998. As a Husky fan growing up in the 1990's it will be strange seeing Burton being a head coach against the Huskies. Burton has coached against the Huskies before when he was a defensive backs coach for the Oregon State Beavers from 2003-2007 where he was 4-1 against the Huskies including winning three in a row at Husky Stadium from 2004-06. Burton made great memories in his three year career at Washington as I'm sure plenty of his ex-teammates will feel strange seeing him on the other sideline.

Burton, began his career at the University of Pacific in 1995. He recorded 85 tackles that year as a safety in 11 games while earning Big West defensive player of the week. Pacific then dropped their football program so Burton with three years of eligibility came up north to the Washington Huskies. While at Washington Burton started at safety in 35 of 36 games where the Huskies went 23-13(.638) during his three years.

With the Huskies Burton recorded 175 tackles with three interceptions. He was named to the all-academic team all three years. He was also named team captain in 1998 by head coach Jim Lambright. Burton had some great moments at Washington and made a name for himself in his second game. Against highly ranked BYU and senior quarterback Steve Sarkisian he made life hell on Sarkisian. He was constantly blitzing from the rover position and recorded two sacks that day. Now he'll be facing Sarkisian 16 years later only now Sarkisian is for the Huskies and Burton is for the enemy.

Burton has made a habit of having things come full circle. His senior year at Washington in 1998, the Oregon State Beavers were trying to defeat the Huskies for the first time since 1985. After scoring a touchdown to cut it to 35-34 head coach Mike Riley decided to go for two. Burton broke the pass up so the Huskies avoided the huge upset. He would end up coaching at Oregon State after helping beat them. After being a secondary coach for five seasons he would leave to coach the Nevada Wolf Pack as their defensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 .

Burton then took over a lousy Portland State program in 2010. In his first season the Vikings were 2-9 and 1-7 in conference play. Then last year Burton led his Vikings to a 7-4 record including 5-3 in conference play as the Vikings took third place. They had won five in a row including beating defending national champion Eastern Washington Eagles(same team who almost beat both Washington and Washington State) 43-26 in Cheney. Three of the Vikings losses were to defending Rose Bowl champion TCU horned frogs, #3 FCS Montana State 38-36 and then at #14 Montana 30-24. Burton has the program going in the right direction that is for sure.

This Saturday will be a special game for Burton as he'll try to showcase himself to his former school and every other D-1 school that he can be a big time coach. Burton who is only 36 years old led the Vikings last year to their first winning season since 2006. The Vikings haven't made the postseason since 2000 when they went 8-4. Burton is recruiting well and will try to sack Sarkisian again like he did back in 1996. This will be weird seeing Burton return to face the Huskies as the enemy. He was a good Husky on and off the field while making Husky fans proud of him. Burton is proving to be a good coach and possibly someday he can roam the sidelines for the Huskies. For now he'll be the enemy this Saturday which is going to feel strange.

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