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PURPLE HAZE
Rick Telander
December 25, 1995
In an improbably sensational season, Northwestern emerged from a fog of futility to earn a trip to sunny Pasadena
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December 25, 1995

Purple Haze

In an improbably sensational season, Northwestern emerged from a fog of futility to earn a trip to sunny Pasadena

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You recall that one of your compatriots in the 1993 alumni game was none other than Ron Burton, All-America halfback in 1959. He was smiling, looking fit (if not totally rational) for a man in his 50's. He certainly looked proud. All live of his children have gone to Northwestern, and all four of his sons have played football there, including current punter Paul. Every one of his boys was suited up that day as well.

When good old Ron caught a swing pass and then was leveled near the line of scrimmage by his second-youngest son. Phil, some of the alums feared they might have a funeral on their hands. But Pop popped up, and when it was all over, he and his brood bonded wonderfully. Ron played on the last Northwestern team to beat both Notre Dame and Michigan in the same season, and to say he has waited feverishly for his alma mater to rise up and smite such giants again would not be an exaggeration.

Ron, a gentle man who works with disadvantaged kids and gives inspirational speeches around the country, could not bring himself to attend this season's opener against Notre Dame. He had watched Paul work so hard all summer, and he was deeply touched when his son, upon leaving for school, said, "I've done everything I can."

"I wanted them to win so badly," Ron says of his son and his beloved Wildcats. "I was a wreck, really. I cry too easily. Tears come to my eyes, good or bad."

So while most of his family traveled to South Bend, Ron stayed at home in suburban Boston and watched the game at his son Steven's house. When the deed was accomplished, Ron stood silently, and he and Steven embraced. "I better leave" was all Ron could-say. And he quickly left the house and got into his car.

"That's where I broke down," he says. He wept unabashedly, and when he reached his house, he was so exhausted that although it was broad daylight, he went straight to bed. "I just feel so...blessed" is all he can say now about his alma mater and his kids.

Beyond that, he can't explain a darned thing.

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