San Francisco, Calif.----- "Mack" Burton was the first San Jose State football player to play on a Grey Cup championship team in the Canadian Football League catching passes from quarterback Joe Kapp in 1964 for the British Columbia (B.C.) Lions.
Blessed with outstanding and leaping ability in his era, Mr. Burton was one of the San Jose State track and field stars of the late 1950's laying the groundwork for the Spartan program that would become world-renowned as "Speed City."
Nathaniel "Mack" Burton (1939-2017), a Hall of Fame high school, community college, college and professional athlete died on May 16 of natural causes at age 78.
Born in Franklinton, La., Mr. Burton and his family settled in San Francisco when he was eight-years old according to his daughter Sheila Burton. Mr. Burton was the first broad jump champion in San Francisco's Academic Athletic Association (AAA) history to win with a mark of 24-feet or more with his winning leap of 24-feet-7.25 in 1957 for Washington High School. He was a two-time all-city end for the Eagles football team and went on to lead City College of San Francisco to the 1958 California Community College state track and field championship.
Mr. Burton would enroll at San Jose State College where he blossomed as a halfback in football while still excelling in track and field. After playing the 1959, 1960 and 1961 seasons for the Spartans, he was a sought after player by the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL). Mr. Burton was the 57th overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft as a fifth round choice of the Chicago Bears. The AFL's San Diego Chargers selected him in the fourth round as the league's 32nd overall pick.
Mr. Burton continued his track and field career, too, at San Jose State under the tutelage of USA Track & Field Hall of Fame coach Lloyd C. "Bud" Winter. In his two track and field seasons, he had a lifetime best broad jump mark of 24-feet-11.5 in 1960 and was a member of the 1960 400 meter (converted from 440 yards) team that ran 39.8, then the second fastest time in school history and still #9 all-time at SJSU.
Still, it would be football in which Mr. Burton would expand on his sports legacy. Declining offers from the Bears and the Chargers, he chose to pursue his football career with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. He would be teamed with legendary quarterback Joe Kapp, another Bay Area product, to form one of the most dynamic passing combinations in the CFL during the 1960's. Mr. Burton would be a member of the B.C. Lions' first team to reach the Grey Cup game, the league's equivalent to the NFL's Super Bowl in 1963, and first B.C. team to win a Grey Cup the following year.
In five CFL seasons (1962-66), Mr. Burton caught 149 passes for 2,207 yards and 15 touchdowns. According to his daughter Sheila, Mr. Burton concluded his professional football career back in the United States with brief stints with the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders.
With his playing career at an end, Mr. Burton was involved in San Francisco business ventures in the construction, furniture and cleaning industries.
He was enshrined in the San Jose State University Sports Hall of Fame, the City College of San Francisco Hall of Fame, the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame and BC (British Columbia) Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1964 Grey Cup champions.
Mr. Burton is predeceased by his wife, Minnie Burton; brother, Luther Burton and grandson, Rashad Williams. He is survived by sisters Juanita McFarland and Ella Powell; sons Lance, Kyle, Ryan and Eric; daughter Sheila Burton; and several grandsons and granddaughters.
Services are pending.