Fullbacks continue to disappear from the NFL landscape as teams rely more heavily on multi-receiver spread offenses. But Michael Burton is proof that the position is not extinct yet.
Claimed by the Bears off waivers from the Lions last Wednesday, the 6-foot, 247-pounder is a throwback to the battering-ram lead blockers who were once prevalent in the league. Burton is a traditional fullback who can flatten a linebacker in the hole and catch passes out of the backfield.
He said Monday that he intends to "bring that kind of old-school tough mentality in the run game and do the dirty work and do whatever the coaches ask me to do; be a special teams guy, be the best player I can be, and get better every single day to help this team win a Super Bowl."
Fullback Michael Burton was claimed by the Bears off waivers last Wednesday.
Burton, 25, joins the Bears after spending his first two NFL seasons with the Lions. Selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Rutgers, he played a prominent role on Detroit's offense as a rookie, appearing in all 16 games with seven starts.
With the Lions de-emphasizing the fullback position last year under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Burton saw limited playing time. Fewer teams are employing fullbacks, but Burton isn't going to start a petition to save the position.
"It's not something I worry about," he said. "I can only control what I can control. That's just my mentality and how I am. But I am very, very excited about the opportunity here."
During OTAs and training camp, Burton hopes to show Bears coaches "the type of character and leadership I can bring to the team, hard work and toughness."
"I'll do the right thing on and off the field and just set an expectation and just be that player that they're envisioning me to be," he said.
That's exactly what Burton did at Rutgers, arriving as a walk on and leaving as a team captain. After starring at West Morris Central High School in Chester, N.J., his only scholarship offers came from Division I-AA schools. But he decided to enroll at Rutgers because it was near where he grew up and provided an opportunity to face top competition.
"Coming out of high school I just felt I wanted to play at the highest level," Burton said. "I didn't have any Division I offers except Rutgers had offered me a preferred walk-on opportunity. During the visits I had taken I felt very comfortable with the staff, the [players] and the direction the program was headed. I thought it was a great opportunity.
"I had 4-to-6 offers from lower Division I-AA schools that would have been great, too. But like I said, I wanted to compete at the highest level, it was a state school, and it was close to home."
Burton earned a full scholarship following his redshirt freshman season and eventually was voted a captain by his teammates.
"Being named captain was really special to me because it does come from the players and it shows the respect they have for you," Burton said. "You set the standard of how you should work and how you should do things on and off the field. I take that very seriously, so for the players to accept me in that role was very special."