The Wolfpacker

November 2015 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 153 of 155

152 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER W illie Burden needs a bigger heart. That's not to say that the former NC State running back and the 1973 ACC Player of the Year hasn't given enough throughout his years as a player, an athlet- ics administrator and professor. His stu- dents will tell you they have never had such a generous mentor. For the last eight months, Burden has been bedridden at a hospital in Atlanta, unable to leave his room — even to go just a few miles away to see sons Freddie, a junior center for Georgia Tech's football team, or Willie Jr., an academic coordinator in the Yellow Jacket athletics department. He checked in on Feb. 16 and has not left Piedmont Hospital since. In July, he celebrated his 64th birthday in his hospital room. His family — including wife, Velma, and oldest child Courtney — visits often, but for Burden, it's just not the same as being at Grant Field to see the game that made him a superstar and provided him so much opportunity through the years. The Rocky Mount native and Raleigh Enloe High School product parlayed his athletic ability into collegiate and professional football careers, a stint as an athletics administrator and a teaching job at Georgia Southern. Now, however, Burden needs to borrow a heart. He's suffered from congestive heart failure for several years and has been on the national transplant list since the beginning of this year. However, only a fraction of those people — about one in four — ever receive a transplant. Even fewer men do be- cause many more women (60 percent) tend to be organ donors than men (40 percent). Twice since February a heart for Burden has become available, but did not match his size and blood type. The athleticism Burden used as one of "The Stallions" — the name given to him, Stan Fritts, Charlie Young, Roland Hooks and Dave Buckey — is gone now. His re- cord-setting 1973 senior season, in which he became the first Wolfpack player to rush for 1,000 yards and was named ACC Player of the Year, is a fond memory. His other organs are shutting down. He was temporarily taken off the transplant list in recent weeks because of a buildup of fluid when his liver quit working. Follow- ing a recent procedure to the right side of his heart, Burden hopes to become strong enough to return to the transplant list. The problem is this: There are more than 122,000 people awaiting organ transplants in the United States right now. Annually, there are about 30,000 organ transplants. About 6,000 people — an average of 19 per day — die each year because of a lack of a matching organ. Burden's friends and family fear he may be part of that last statistic. There is lit- erally nothing they can do for him until another donor with a heart that matches Burden's system dies. Except, of course, raise awareness and convince people to become organ donors. In North Carolina, drivers can sign up to be organ donors when they get or re- new their driver's licenses. Most states also have online portals for their donor registries through Donate Life America or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Family friends Drew and Robin Zwald have helped spread the message, while Burden's family tries to keep his spirits up. The Calgary Stampeders, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern have made announce- ments encouraging organ donation. Here's the Burden family's call to the NC State community: If you've seriously considered becoming an organ donor, make sure you fill out the appropriate paper work and get it taken care of. It's a personal deci- sion, of course, but it is also a gesture that could save someone else's life when yours is over. Burden has grown weak in recent days, but thrives on visits from family and friends. NC State football coach Dave Do- eren wrote to him not long ago (Fans can do the same: Willie Burden, c/o Piedmont Hospital, 1968 Peachtree Rd. NW, Atlanta, Georgia, 30309). What a career Burden had, in football, in athletics administration and academics. He and childhood friend Young were recruited from Enloe as part of head coach Earle Ed- wards' final recruiting class in 1970. They played for interim coach Al Michaels in 1971 and were important pieces in running Lou Holtz's veer offense. Burden still ranks among the school's top 10 rushers with 2,529 yards and 22 career touchdowns. He spent eight years in the Canadian Football League, setting the league record with 1,896 rushing yards in 1975 and earning CFL Player of the Year honors. In 2002, his No. 10 jersey was added to the Calgary Stampeders Wall of Fame. And in 2001, he was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame. While playing professionally, Burden returned to his hometown to work for NC State athletics. He did some coaching, some athletics fundraising and some mar- keting. He graduated from NC State with a degree in economics in 1974. He also earned a master's in sports ad- ministration from Ohio University in 1984 and a doctorate in education from Ten- nessee State in 1990. He was the athletics director at North Carolina A&T in Greens- boro from 1990-99 before dedicating his life to teaching. In 2009, Burden was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and served as NC State's legend at the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Now, however, he has to wait, hoping the right organ donor comes along at the right time, with a heart big enough to share. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE Legendary Pack Back Willie Burden Waits For A New Heart Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. You may contact him at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 324 Blackwell St., Ste. 1020, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: Burden, the 1973 ACC Football Player of the Year, has been bedridden at an Atlanta hospi- tal since Feb. 16. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

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