With new NFL Network gig, Kayla Burton shows that football runs in the family – The Boston Globe

When Kayla Burton made the cross-country leap, one of both distance and stature, from Western Mass News to the NFL Network in October, her new employer made sure she started from a place of comfortable familiarity.
Burton — the granddaughter of Patriots legend Ron Burton, daughter of Ch. 4 sports director Steve Burton and his wife, Ginni, and sibling to three exceptional athletes, Kendall, Austin, and Veronica — made her reporting debut on the network during the build-up to the Patriots’ Week 4 matchup with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Burton, 26, co-hosted the Patriots.com pregame show last season, along with her reporting, anchoring, and producing duties at Springfield-based Western Mass News.
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She’d soon move to Los Angeles, NFL Network’s home base, taking a 7 a.m. flight the morning after running the Boston Marathon. (”I don’t recommend it,” she said with a laugh.)
But that first assignment? She couldn’t have been more at home.
“They were like, ‘Why don’t we do something with you in your backyard?’ ” said Burton.
“And I was like, ‘Yesssss, that would be great.’ I took it as a testament to how great of a network it is. They thought about my comfort level, they knew this was where I was used to reporting from the past couple of years.”
Burton has a multiplatform role at NFL Network, including on-site reporting, news updates, and contributions to the NFL.com website. She has the enthusiasm of a newcomer and the poise of a veteran on air, but acknowledges she has had to make other adjustments besides getting used to living on the opposite coast.
“When I was at Western Mass News, you were clocking in at a certain time every day, and scrambling against deadlines every day and trying to get this and that and this done,” said Burton.
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“In my role here, things are planned out longer ahead of time. ‘You’re going to be on the desk this number of times a month, and you’re going to Chargers practice this day and Rams practice this day.’ The best part about it is that because there are so many talented people here, you get assignments that match your skills. I get to be me here.”
Burton graduated in 2017 from Lehigh, where she played basketball, and then earned her master’s degree from Syracuse.
Burton’s ascent has undoubtedly been rapid, in part because she is a go-getter. Western Mass News didn’t cover sports until she presented a proposal, based on e-mail conversations with area athletic directors, shortly after she arrived in 2019.
It certainly helped that her last name was a familiar and respected one in New England, but she made the most of opportunities, such as when the Patriots reached out to her about hosting their pregame show with Nick “Fitzy” Stevens.
When her contract at Western Mass News was close to expiring, she had conversations with other outlets. NFL Network reached out to her after seeing her reel and, after bringing her to Los Angeles for an interview over a couple of days, offered her the job.
“It’s been amazing. I love it,” she said. “But going where I was previous years to this, the lifestyle is different and it’s so exciting, but I have to admit, too, it has been overwhelming.
“I’m a social butterfly. I come from a talkative family. I’m able to talk to a wall. I don’t feel like there’s that big of an adjustment in that department. But I do think because of the excitement I may have underestimated how much of a change this really is. I’m a human being and this is a really big change.”
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Burton said she was appreciative of the kindness of so many colleagues who have gone out of the way to talk to her or include her in dinner plans.
“I don’t have my family out here. My friends aren’t out here,” she said. “But my co-workers are genuinely phenomenal.”
She said she especially appreciates the kindness because it’s something her grandfather, Ron, always emphasized to her and her siblings.
“For him to have all this recognition as a Patriot was a big deal, but for him to pay it forward with the camp [The Ron Burton Training Village in Hubbardston, which emphasizes teaching leadership and character] our family runs in the summer, that’s where I really found my foundation. He always told his grandchildren, make sure you thank the janitors who open the door for you. Treat people with respect. That’s so important.
“And then, our parents really taught us work ethic at a very young age. When things might seem tough, or when I felt like I couldn’t do something, I’m able to get to different levels and say I can handle it.”
Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.
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