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A Man to Lean On
Leigh Montville
December 21, 1992
Former Olympic sprinter and NFL receiver Lawrence Burton found his true calling as a counselor to troubled kids at Boys Town
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December 21, 1992

A Man To Lean On

Former Olympic sprinter and NFL receiver Lawrence Burton found his true calling as a counselor to troubled kids at Boys Town

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The bedrooms on the second floor of the large brick house at 525 Maher Circle are changed the moment-Lawrence Burton walks through their doors. He brings a seriousness with him. The posters on the walls are of Michael Jordan dunking basketballs and of airplanes flying through the sky and of race cars taking high-banked turns, but now there is a man in one of the rooms. He stands amid the Legos and magazines and adolescent daydreams and insecurities. A man talks with a boy.

"You had your head down at dinner," Burton says. "Was there something wrong, Raymond? Did something happen at wrestling practice?"

"I hurt my knee," the boy says.

"How did you hurt your knee?"

"I moved one way, and my knee didn't move with me. I heard a crackle in there. The coach had me put some ice on it."

The dishes have been washed and put back into the cupboard. The duties and domestic pleasures of the night have begun. Homework. A favorite television show. Reading. A game of pool. Whatever. Every morning a family comes apart, the pieces drawn to separate endeavors in separate places, work and school and meetings and commitments, but every night the pieces are put back together again. This is a time for counsel and advice, for fathers and sons, the best time to talk about the woolly behemoths and snarling infidels and great gobs of 20th-century goo that can be found outside the family door. How was your day? What happened? This is the time.

"How is the wrestling going?" Burton asks.

"Not great," Raymond says. "It's hard. I like baseball better. I did pin a kid, though. Two days ago."

"How about yourself? Have you seen the lights on the gym ceiling?"

"Oh, yeah. I wrestled Todd. He pinned me good."

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