Russ Burton had been through this routine hundreds of times. He made the 25-minute drive from his home in Snyder to Orchard Park, settled into a parking spot at 1 Bills Drive and started walking toward Ralph Wilson Stadium.
What made this occasion different was that it was a Monday. In June. And Burton’s Mercury Sable was parked in a spot reserved for Buffalo Bills employees.
For the lifelong Bills fan, it was a dream come true.
“It was a completely surreal experience,” Burton, 36, says. “Walking around that building, standing next to some of my favorite players, and knowing I am getting paid to do all of this, it was a pretty exciting feeling, and it still is.”
Truth be told, the hiring makes a lot of sense for Burton and the Bills. Burton spent most of the last 13 years coordinating and producing gameday morning shows for the team’s former flagship radio station, 97 Rock (WGRF 96.9 FM). In many ways, Burton has become a household name in Buffalo Bills broadcasting, a behind-the-scenes equivalent of the man who’s show he recently began producing, John Murphy.
“I like to think this job came from my many years of hard work and experience with the team,” Burton says. “It really gave me a feeling of validation that what I had done before was noticed, and it felt really good.”
As the team’s multimedia producer, Burton’s main responsibilities are producing The John Murphy Radio Show, and shooting and editing video for the Bills’ website. The show, which airs nightly from 7-9 p.m. on WGR 550AM, features what the team calls unprecedented access to its coaches and players as well as call-in segments for fans.
“I can’t express enough how elated I am to have this opportunity,” Burton affirms. “I believe that it’s proof that hard work does pay off; if you keep your head up and do the best job you can, someone will notice.”
It wasn’t that long ago that things appeared much less prosperous for Burton. He left 97 Rock in August 2011 to sell advertising for Townsquare Media. He also deejays weddings and dabbles in professional acting. Burton says that his tenure in sales gave him perspective but, ultimately, wasn’t the right fit. Plus, when your dream job comes calling, you don’t fumble away the opportunity.
And Burton could be joining the Bills at an opportune time. Several prognosticators are picking Buffalo to make the playoffs this year, something that hasn’t happened in Burton’s time covering the team.
“I’ve always been an eternal optimist when it comes to the Bills, and a little bit of a homer I guess, but I really don’t see any way they finish worse than 9-7 this year,” Burton gushes. “They have a great chance to set the tone week one against the Jets and get the ball rolling from there. I firmly believe that this is the year the Bills return to the playoffs. I can’t wait to put this show on the air and get the fans even more charged up than they already are. Let’s go Buff-a-lo!”
Bills fans outside the Buffalo market will also be able to tune into The John Murphy Show by downloading the Buffalo Bills app for mobile devices or logging on to www.buffalobills.com to download the daily podcast.