Jan. 4, 2010
Varsity Athletes Club
John Hirn wrote the following article about Alex Burl Jr. John has also written a definitive book of the history of Colorado State athletics titled Aggies to Rams. To learn more about this book, go to the website:ColoradoAggies.com.
DENVER, Colo. -- Dec. 9, 2009: News was received today of the passing of one of the greatest athletes in Colorado State University history and grandfather of current Ram linebacker Davis Burl. Burl not only played outstanding football at CSU when it was known as Colorado A&M, but he was known more for his ability on the track than on the football field.
Alex Burl Jr. graduated from Denver Manuel High School in 1950 and attended Colorado A&M College in the fall of that same year. He played football on the freshman team in the fall of 1950 under coach Julius "Hans" Wagner before making the varsity squad in 1951 under legendary CSU head football coach Bob Davis. He played safety on defense and halfback on offense to take advantage of his sprinter speed from 1951 to 1953.
In track, Burl ran under the guidance of coach Vern McHone, who took over for Harry Hughes as track coach as the 40-year veteran coach/athletic director prepared for retirement. It was in track that Alex Burl became the greatest of stars at Colorado A&M earning All-American awards three times and setting national records in sprinting. In 1952, Burl qualified for the Olympic trials in the 100-yard dash and barely missed a spot on the roster in just his sophomore year at Colorado A&M.
Although Burl continued to excel in football, his ability in the 100-yard and 220-yard dash made him a national sensation. In 1954, his senior year, Burl finished third in the NCAA meet in those two competitions which again made him a favorite for the Olympics.
Following his Career at Colorado A&M, Burl signed a contract with the Chicago Cardinals, but the US Army wanted him before the NFL could have him play in the Windy City. Burl spend two years in the Army before finally spending another brief two years with the Cardinals.
After his NFL career ended, Alex Burl went on to teach at Denver Manuel and Denver West High Schools as a premier coach in both football and track.
A CSU Pioneer in Athletics and Diversity
In January of 2008, author John Hirn spoke with Alex Burl in a telephone interview for a Black History Month feature on ColoradoAggies.com about his role at Colorado A&M in the early 1950s. When Burl was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals, he became the first CSU athlete in the NFL. (He played in eight games in 1956 and scored one touchdown) In 1954, Burl also received the coveted Nye Award, given to the top male athlete at CSU since the 1920s. Burl was the first black athlete to receive the coveted award, but his story of racial diversity does not end there.
Burl grew up in Denver and admired Colorado A&M athletes Eddie Hanna and George Jones. Although they were not the first black athletes at Colorado A&M, they did help lead the school to their first bowl game in 1949. Along with Al Dawson, the Aggie-Rams had three black football players on the field at a time when the school's rivals in Boulder had never allowed black athletes. Burl chose Colorado A&M because the coaches invited any player to play there and he looked to Jones as a mentor when Burl was a freshman.
In his 2008 interview, Burl mentioned that when he attended Colorado A&M people were generally nice to him in Fort Collins and on the campus. Just 10 years earlier, John Mosley, the first modern day black athlete in CSU history, did not receive the same welcome. Unlike Mosley, Burl was allowed to live on the campus in the old wooden South Hall that so many athletes lived in at the time.
Burl did point out though that he did not escape the racism of the 1950s while he was at Colorado A&M. The 1951 football season was the first year in which a black student-athlete could stay in a Utah hotel with his team. He believed that when he went to St. Louis in 1954, he was the first black student-athlete to stay in a white hotel; ever.
Played Football with CSU Greats
Alex Burl played varsity football from 1951 to 1953 and had some of the school's greatest players in its history as his teammates. Burl played with Don Burroughs, the Aggie-Rams great quarterback of the early 1950s and excellent defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams.
Burl also played with two CSU All-American football players. The first was Harvey Achziger and the second was 1955 All-American Gary Glick. In his interview for the book Aggies to Rams, Glick spoke of what an excellent teammate Alex Burl was. Burl even named one of his sons after teammate Gary Glick.
Alex Burl's great athletic ability earned him a spot in the CSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. He joined Glick and Burroughs in the school's hall of fame and still ranks as one of the greatest track athletes in school history.
Burl Family Athletic Legacy
Alex Burl leaves behind an athletic legacy that spans three generations. His sons Gary, Farley and Gerald all played football and ran track at Arizona State University. Gary signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins in 1976.
In 2007, Alex Burl's grandson, Cameron, was on the CSU Rams football team and a year later a second grandson, Davis Burl, signed to play for the Rams. Davis, son of Gary Burl, played linebacker for the Rams in the 2009 football season. (Cameron is no longer on the team).
Davis Burl played football at Grandview High School and is a native of Aurora, Colorado. He joins Larry and Ed Graves as the only known CSU football players whose grandfather played football for the school. Davis Burl was thrust into action in 2009 as a redshirt freshman and will return to the team in 2010 to continue his grandfather's legacy.