Ron Burton was born July 25, 1936, in Springfield, Ohio. A graduate of Springfield High School, where he was considered the best high school football player in the state, he went on to become an All-Ohio and All-American running back and two time All Big Ten at Northwestern University from 1958 to 1960.

Ron left Northwestern holding the school records for points scored in a career (130), most points scored in a season (76) and most career touchdowns (21). In 1960 he finished 10th in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1st round and 9th overall in the 1960 NFL Draft and the first-ever pick by the Boston Patriots in the newly formed American Football League. He decided to sign with the Patriots and spent six seasons with them, where he rushed for 1536 yards, caught 111 passes for 1205 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. In 1962 he rushed for 548 yards, caught 40 passes for 461 yards, returned 13 kick-offs for 238 yards and 21 punts for 122 yards, winning the Patriot's Most Valuable Player Award.

Following his career he remained in New England, where he made a commitment to philanthropy. Throughout his years with the Patriots, and the subsequent years he spent in broadcasting and insurance, community service was a constant thread running through his life. He served on many civic boards and charities and was widely recognized for his service and philanthropy. 

In 1985, his family bought 305 acres of land in Hubbardston, Mass. and built the facilities to host the Ron Burton Training Village, which annually provides a month-long "training camp" atmosphere for inner-city and underprivileged children to help them build self-esteem, self-reliance, respect for others and racial harmony through athletic and educational activities. Thousands of children from throughout New England have attended the camp, which has hosted attendees from as far away as Florida and California.

The Patriots created a community service award in 2003 and named it after Ron Burton. The award is presented annually to the player who makes the greatest impact in the New England community. He was elected to the National Football College Hall of Fame and the Northwestern Hall of Fame.

Ron Burton passed away from multiple myeloma on September 13, 2003, at age 67, in Framingham, Mass.