Long-time professional and college football coach Leon Burtnett begins his fourth season at Houston and his first as the Director of Player Personnel and Quality Control. He spent his first three seasons at UH as the the linebackers coach. Burtnett came to UH in December 2007 after five seasons at Washington State.
Last season, Burtnett tutored junior Marcus McGraw to his third straight 100-tackle season, leading the team for as many years. He was first-team All-Conference USA, earning league honors for the second year in a row. Newcomer linebacker Sammy Brown led the conference in tackles for loss and was a honorable mention All-C-USA selection.
In 2009, Burtnett coached McGraw to the All-Conference USA second team on defense, while Phillip Steward was named to the All-Freshman team. In his first season at Houston in 2008, Burtnett guided Cody Lubojasky to All-C-USA Honorable Mention honors, while McGraw was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.
Born in California, Burtnett grew up in Meade, Kan., graduated from Southwestern College in Kansas and coached for four years in the Kansas high school ranks before getting his first collegiate position at Colorado State as a graduate intern on Mike Lude's staff. A year later he joined the staff at Montana State as the secondary coach.
In the spring of 1971, Jim Sweeney plucked Burtnett from MSU to coach Washington State's defensive backs. In 1972, the newest WSU assistant went to Wyoming to join Fritz Shurmur's Cowboy staff, where he worked with defensive coordinator Dick Roach, who later was a Sweeney assistant at Washington State.
Burtnett then joined Darryl Rogers' staff at San Jose State in 1974, and then moved with Rogers to Michigan State in 1976. From there Jim Young at Purdue hired him in 1977. Six years later Burtnett was named the Boilermakers' head coach, replacing Young.
In 1984, Burtnett was named Big Ten Coach of the Year after guiding Purdue to a 7-5 record and a berth in the Peach Bowl. That season Purdue defeated Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan; the only time in school history the Boilermakers have defeated all three teams in one season. During his Purdue tenure, Burtnett served as head coach of the 1985 Blue-Gray Game and was an assistant at the 1986 Hula Bowl.
In 1987, the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Ron Meyer came calling. Burtnett spent five seasons with the Colts, the first four as running backs coach and the fifth season as offensive coordinator.
After a stint in private business beginning in 1992, Burtnett spent two seasons at Fresno State with Jim Sweeney, three years at Louisiana-Monroe and three years at Arkansas State, serving as defensive coordinator at all three schools.
From Arkansas State, Burtnett made his return to Washington State in 2003, serving four seasons as linebackers coach under head coach Bill Doba and coaching the safeties in 2007.
He and his wife, Karen, reside in the Missouri City.