Former Kansas City Chiefs fullback Mike Burton
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Mike Burton Is Helping Revive Denver Broncos' Glory with Sean Payton and Russell Wilson

In an exclusive interview with FanBuzz, fullback Mike Burton talked about how Sean Payton and Russell Wilson are reviving the Broncos.

Mike Burton knows greatness when he sees it.

Burton, 31, is fresh off winning his first Super Bowl ring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs last season. When it came to picking his next destination as a free-agent fullback this spring, the choice was an easy one:

Reunite with Sean Payton in Denver, with the Broncos.

"He's an unbelievable head coach," Burton told FanBuzz during a wide-ranging conversation just before Broncos training camp began. "He knows how to set a culture. He's done it. He's won. He's done it for decades in this league. So, it starts with that. Sean knows how to hire the right coaches and get the right players in the building. That's very important to me, that he creates a winning culture."

One of the most personally successful seasons of Burton's career came during his time in Payton's offense. As a member of the New Orleans Saints in 2020, when he rushed for 18 yards and caught a career-high four passes for eight yards as a vocal leader of the NFC South champion squad that won a playoff game that season.

The chance to return to Payton's offense, led by veteran Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson, was too great an opportunity to pass up.

"From an offensive standpoint," Burton said, "Sean likes to run a lot of two-back sets, utilize the fullback, and those types of things. To me, it's just a great opportunity. I'm thankful that I'm able to play with him, and have this opportunity. That's all it is at this point, just an opportunity.

"I have to go show coach that I deserve those reps, that I deserve to be the guy. It's upon myself. I say it all the time: Players make the depth chart, not the coaches. So, he presents a great opportunity for me, and that's why I have to take advantage of it."

Payton, of course, led the Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV, owns a .631 career winning percentage and has nine playoff victories on his resume?. The allure of playing in a system Burton's comfortable in, and walking into a veteran locker room as a culture-driver, made signing with the Broncos an easy choice for him.

"It started with getting back with Sean," Burton said. "I spent a couple years with him in New Orleans, and I loved everything about it. What he represents, how he builds a team, and obviously the offensive system — that all played a role in wanting to go there. He's a winning coach, he knows how to do it. I wanted to be part of that; to come to Denver, help build that culture was incredibly appealing to me.

"Then, obviously, the opportunity to play fullback in his system, the familiarity of being in it before and being able to come over and do it again. So it was, all around, a very exciting opportunity, and I could not be more thankful that I was able to land there and just really appreciative of the opportunity."

Mike Burton: The Last of the Fullbacks

Fullback Mike Burton spikes the ball after a touchdown for the Chiefs.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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Players like Burton are a dying breed.

Just ask Burton's former head coach, Andy Reid.

"The tight ends can work into that spot," Reid said this offseason via the Kansas City Star. "We know Noah [Gray] can do all of that, and that's kind of where we went with it. We've got a number of tight ends that we feel comfortable with, so maybe you keep an extra tight end as opposed to that fullback."

As a fullback and special teams ace — and, as of last season, one of just 14 fullbacks remaining in the league — Burton is carrying the flag for a position that is seemingly well into its NFL twilight.

"I take a lot of pride in playing fullback in this league," Burton told FanBuzz. "In being a leader, and being a guy who can play continuous years. I will say that there's a lot of really good fullbacks in this league right now. There's some really good older guys, and young guys, too. There are stellar players at the position right now.

"I'm just blessed and thankful to be part of that group. I take a lot of pride in playing the position and helping my team win, however I can, whether that's blocking, running the ball, receiving, playing special teams — that kind of stuff. It's a very important job, I believe, and I try to be the best at it."

As teams take a greater-precision approach to roster building, and prioritize positional versatility, many are following Reid's lead and phasing out fullbacks. That's especially true given their diminished special teams value following the league's controversial new kickoff fair catch rule.

Still, several players are making an impact on their teams as the battering ram along the goal line, the lead blocker in two-back sets, and by screaming down the field on special teams looking to force a key turnover or bury their opponent deep in their own territory.

Burton says young players such as the Detroit Lions' Jason Cabinda, San Francisco 49ers star Kyle Juszcyk and the Las Vegas Raiders' Alec Ingold are some of the players he studies most closely and admires the most across the league. During his last stint with Payton in New Orleans, Burton played 21 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps.

In Denver, Burton hopes to make an even more significant impact both on the field and off.

"I think I can take some of the experiences over the course of my career," Burton pointed out. "Spending the past couple seasons in Kansas City, having just won a Super Bowl. Just being able to bring that experience over, understanding what that looks like, from a practice standpoint to game standpoints understanding all the situations. ... Everything that goes into winning a championship, and what does that look like off the field?

"It's about making sure you're taking care of your body, you're working out, all of those things that it takes to build that championship-winning mentality. ... It was an awesome OTA [organized team activity] session we had this spring. Guys were working extremely hard. There's some incredibly talented players who I'm really excited to get working with — both offense and defense, and special teams. So I'm just really looking forward to the opportunity to get going with these guys."

Russell Wilson: The Latest Great QB in Mike Burton's Backfield

Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson goes through a high-five line before a game.

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

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The quarterbacks Burton has shared a backfield with during his career are a who's who of the elite at the position.

From Drew Brees in New Orleans to winning a Super Bowl alongside Patrick Mahomes, Burton has had the chance to line up next to some of the greatest to play the game.

Now, Burton gets to ride shotgun for what the Broncos hope is the Russell Wilson redemption story following his lackluster arrival in Denver last season.

Judging by Wilson's performance this spring, Burton is optimistic that the quarterback has turned the page from a tumultuous season that saw him toss a career-low 16 touchdowns while tying for a career-high 11 interceptions as the Broncos limped to a 5-12 finish in the AFC West's basement.

"During OTAs, [Wilson] has been incredibly impressive," Burton says. "His detail-oriented work ethic is second to none. The guy loves the game, loves being around his teammates. He's done it for a decade at a high level.

"You watch out in practice, or you watch the individual drills, and you just hope that transfers into the preseason and the regular season. I'm very excited to play with him. He's a great leader, hard worker, really has the drive to win, and I'm really excited to be part of this group."

Wilson, Brees and Mahomes have won four Lombardi Trophies between them in six appearances, and Burton believes there's a common thread that makes them elite.

"They're excellent leaders," Burton says. "They're vocal leaders, and they're leaders with their play. They go out and get it done. Not only that, they do it on a consistent basis. You can count on those guys drive, after drive, after drive; they're going to make the right throw, they're going to be in the right position.

"It starts off with being a great leader. But it's also the details. They understand what it takes to play in the NFL but also what it takes to play quarterback, and it's just a different animal. Those guys are the best at it. They understand how detailed they have to be on and off the field. Note taking, film study. It's just all of those things, how to take care of your body. Those are the kinds of things I try to look at; they understand what it takes to play in this league and play quarterback at an extremely high level, and all of those guys have all those things. I've been able to learn a lot from playing with them. It's the same with Russell."

While Mahomes is earmarked as an eventual first-ballot Hall of Famer, it will be equally difficult to keep Brees out of Canton when he is first eligible in 2026. A significant reason Broncos ownership homed in on Payton this year to succeed Nathanial Hackett after just one season was his track record of getting the most out of quarterbacks and a belief that his system will be a significantly better fit for Wilson.

Burton witnessed Payton's magic firsthand and has high expectations for an encore.

"It's known that Sean gets the most out of quarterbacks," Burton said. "That's been shown, obviously, with Drew Brees, but it's everybody on offense — receivers, running backs. He's as good a coach as I've been around at putting players in positions to be successful, understanding strengths, their weaknesses, and how do you formulate a game plan.

"He's an offensive mastermind, but his feel for the players that he has — especially quarterbacks — is something I've never been around until I was with him in New Orleans, and now in Denver. ... It's just really special to watch him work with each individual guy and then put them in the best position to be successful. I think that's why he's had so much success year after year in New Orleans."

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