By Tony Pfifer, Colorado State University @ Fort Collins
A tremendous athlete blessed with great speed, Burl was a legend at Manual. Known as “Bullet Burl,” he won the 1949 state 100-yard dash title in 10 seconds flat while also starring in football. He came to CSU ó then known as Colorado A&M ó and was a standout in both sports from 1951-54.
On the football field, he played for legendary coach Bob Davis and was a three-year starter at halfback and safety. He was invited to play in the old College All-Star game following his senior season and was later drafted by the Chicago Cardinals.
Burl had to defer his NFL career for two years while serving a stint in the U.S. Army, but came back to play two seasons with the Cardinals. He was the first African American from a Colorado college to play in the NFL.
While he was a tremendous football player, Burl was best known for his great speed. He was a three-time Skyline League champion in the 100- and 200-yard dashes, and he was a three-time All-American ó the first African American at CSU to earn that honor. His third-place finish in the 100 at the 1954 NCAA meet is the highest in CSU history by a sprinter.
Following his senior year, Burl was given the Nye Award as CSUís most outstanding male athlete. He was the first African American to win the coveted award. Burl continued to run while in the Army, and posted a career-best time of 9.3 seconds in the 100, which converts to a 10.06 100 meters. He was twice invited to the U.S. Olympic Trials and won several Rocky Mountain AAU sprinting titles.
When his NFL career ended, Burl returned to Denver and began his career coaching football and track at Manual and West high schools, becoming Coloradoís first African American high school football coach. Manualís track teams dominated the state in the 1970s. His sons Gary, Farley and Gerald all won state titles for the Thunderbolts before going to Arizona State to compete in football and track. The Burls were known as ìColoradoís First Family of Track and Field.î
Burl was inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1999 and the CSU Sports Hall of Fame the following year. His legacy continued when grandsons Cameron and Davis played football at CSU. He died in 2009 at age 78.
“My Dad would have cried like a baby if he was still alive,” Farley Burl said. “He never looked at his own accomplishments, all he wanted was for us to be better than him. My Dad was a life-changer for so many kids in Denver, and he would be so honored to be in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.”
What lies behind you and what lies before you are tiny matters compared to what lies within you.