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September 12, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Ex-UW star Burton returns to face Huskies

On a teleconference call this morning with reporters, Portland State coach Nigel Burton talked about returning to Seattle to face his former team.

Burton started three years (1996-98) at Washington and graduated from UW in 1999. He began his career at Pacific in 1995, but transferred after the school dropped football.

Other former UW players on Portland State’s staff include: Lester Towns (1996-99), who was a standout linebacker and two-time captain, and Ikaika Malloe (1993-96), a former walk-on who and four-year letterman. Towns coaches linebackers and is the recruiting coordinator for the Vikings while Malloe coaches defensive tackles and special teams.

Burton lists former Huskies coach Jim Lambright as a mentor. He said he’s proud of the way coach Steve Sarkisian has restored the Huskies to prominence and said they’ve been friends since they were assistants for Pac-10 teams.

Here’s a transcript of the interview.

(Can you recall your time at UW and how it influenced you as a coach?) “I loved my time there. It was a great experience playing there. I think it shaped me as a coach enormously in terms of trying to instill confidence in your players. The way you go about recruiting. The way you instill discipline within your football team. All of those things. It’s probably shaped me more as a person than it has a football coach.

(Are there any unique emotions going against your alma mater this week?) “I think it’s the sixth time I’ve coached against the Huskies so it’s still different in the fact of being the head coach. It’s always nice. My phone is blowing up with ticket requests and field passes and all of that kind of stuff. Other than that, I’ve addressed our team and told them this game is about them. It’s not about me in any way, shape or form. I’m not planning on suiting up on Saturday. If I do, I told them I could give them about one good play. That would be about it. I’d probably blow a hamstring. It’s always great being in Seattle, but this isn’t at all about me.”

(Is it a little different because the game is at CenturyLink Field and not Husky Stadium?) “No I don’t think so. I get excited every Saturday, it doesn’t matter where we are. Obviously with the crowd and everything it will be a little bit different in that aspect, but I’ve coached in Husky Stadium before. I’ll be excited to see it when we go back in 2016.”

(Can you talk about the former UW players on your staff?) “Lester Towns coaches linebackers for me. We played together and we were actually roommates and he was actually a groomsman in my wedding. Ikaika Malloe we played together. We actually were … he was the whip (weak outside linebacker) and I was the rover (strong safety). We ran our 8-man front and we sat in the same meeting room and all of those things. He actually (was) a student assistant my senior year. So we go way back. He’s coaching special teams and D-tackles for me. Both of them are doing a great job.”

(As an alum, was there a part of you that was hard to watch the down years for UW football and is it nice to see the program on a rise?) “I think Sark has done an amazing job. In terms of recruiting and instilling confidence in his players. He’s had to make some tough choices, which I completely understand. He and I have been friends for a long time back when we were both assistants. I’m very proud of the job he’s done there.”

(When did you think you’d be a football coach?) “I never thought of being a football coach when I played. I thought those guys were nuts because they stayed in the office so long. I trained to be an accountant. I took a job at … (an) accounting firm. Just missed being with the fellas. Missed the mentoring aspect that I did as a player. I took about a year or two. And when I finally worked my way into coaching, just fell in love with the profession and all the ways that you can use the game to affect a young man’s life. So that’s what I enjoyed the most.”

(Can you talk about your coaching influences?) “Lambo has been one of my biggest influences. He still comes to my games. When I coached at Oregon State, he came to games. Now coaching at Portland State he comes to a game every year. I’m assuming he’ll be at this one. This will be the shortest drive for him. He’s been a huge influence in my life. And he changed my life just allowing me to be there and play there. And I appreciate that. Other influences are I think every coach I ever worked for from Jim Leavitt, Mike Riley, Chris Ault and Jim Walsh especially. They’ve all been influences in my career and helped shaped the program that we run here at Portland State.”

(How do you address a game like this when you’re stepping up in competition?) “I think we approach it the same way we always do. The biggest thing is you sell players on your program and you have a way in which you do things. If all of a sudden you change them based on your opponent, it starts be be about who you’re playing and not about your execution and you doing the right things. The big thing is we go about our business and we execute and let the chips fall where they may.”

(Ever cross paths with Sark and do you know him at all?) “All the time.”

(Would you consider you guys buddies? Do you talk football a lot?) “I consider ourselves buddies because we don’t talk football when we see each other.”

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