Former Purdue football coach Leon Burtnett passes away

College Sports

Courtesy: Purdue Athletics

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Former Purdue head and assistant football coach Leon Burtnett passed away today, Tuesday, June 1. He was 78 years old.
Burtnett coached 10 seasons in West Lafayette, five as the Boilermakers’ head coach (1982-86), three as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator (1979-81) and two as defensive coordinator (1977-78).
Burtnett, who got his start in the profession as the head coach of Mount Hope High School in Kansas in 1965, made his biggest mark at Purdue as the architect of the Boilermakers’ “Junk Defense” from 1977-81. His defenses finished among the nation’s top 25 in four of his five seasons, including fourth overall in 1978. In five seasons under head coach Jim Young and Burtnett’s guide, the Boilermakers went a combined 38-19-1 and won three consecutive bowl games (1978 Peach, 1979 Bluebonnet and 1980 Liberty). The 1979 squad still holds the school record for most victories in a season, finishing the year 10-2 overall.
Under his leadership as the defensive coordinator, Burtnett would coach five different players to eight different first-team All-Big Ten recognitions, including three two-time honorees in Ken Loushin, Kenna Turner and Calvin Clark.
Burtnett, the 1984 Big Ten and American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year, went a combined 21-34-1 as the Boilermakers’ top man on the gridiron. He led the 1984 Purdue squad (7-5, 6-3 Big Ten) to a tie for second in the conference standings and a berth in the Peach Bowl. The Boilermakers defeated Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan during the 1984 regular season.
Burtnett recruited and coached 1986 consensus All-American Rod Woodson to Purdue in 1984. Woodson, a member of the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame, was a three-time first-team All-Big Ten recipient (1984-86). He would go on to be tabbed with the 10th overall selection in the 1987 National Football League Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and would play 17 years in the NFL for four different teams. Woodson played in the Super Bowl with three different teams, including the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV title in 2001.
Along with the Woodson, Burtnett brought a whole host of future NFL players to Purdue as the head coach, including Jim Everett, Mark Jackson, Fred Strickland, Chris Dishman and Calvin Williams.
Burtnett’s 1984 bowl appearance was the last by a Purdue team until Joe Tiller arrived in 1997.

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