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Willie Burton

Heart of a Lion

Our Journey of Faith and Courage

Winner of Mom's Choice Gold Award
for Young Adult Inspirational/Motivational Books
Heart of a Lion book cover.jpg

What could Olympic Gold Medalist, Dan Gable, and Willie Burton of Louisville, Kentucky possibly have in common? As viewers of ESPN's E:60 - WILLPower learned, while their wrestling records were polar opposites, they are both wrestlers, and champions.

Willie Burton was born a fighter. Entering the world two months prematurely and weighing two-and-a-half pounds, the tiny child with cerebral palsy and a crack cocaine addiction was not exactly the perfect baby his adoptive parents, Brenda and Larry Burton, had in mind. Suddenly, they envisioned a future filled with hardships for him and self-sacrifice for themselves. Trusting in God's provident care, they took their child home, and resolved to give him a better life than the odds suggested.


Supported by Brenda's love and encouragement through years of hospitalizations and physical therapy, Willie tackled every challenge from his seat in a wheelchair. The teen faced the ultimate test, though, when his determination to earn a place on his high school's wrestling team put everything on the line; with little lower body strength and minimal upper body strength on his left side, Willie relied on his faith in God to help him prove that life would not pin him to the mat!

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Willie: A Super Friend!

Winner of Mom's Choice Gold Award
for Children's Books

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.  

Chronicles 15:7

This is not just a book for wrestling fans, this is not just a book for people with disabilities. This is a book for those who feel hopeless, this is a book for the outcast and the ones who are told they aren’t enough. This is the book for anybody going through a struggle and can’t find a way out. I want this book to reach as many people as possible, not for fame or money but just because I have a passion inside me to help the broken people. I don’t care if this book sells a million copies or ten copies. If one person picks this up and finds the courage to keep moving forward, our book will be a success.

Willie Burton

willie burton in the media


As Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable puts it, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy." Unless, perhaps, you are Willie Burton of Fairdale, KY. Burton wrestles, but as this ESPN E:60 story reveals, nothing in his life is easy.

Takedown Wrestling

Watch Willie's interview with Don Casber of Takedown Wrestling

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What this book gives its readers is inspiration at its highest. Success and winning often give inspiration, yet here the struggles are doing that in Willie's life. Willie's story is great but challenging. This book helps us all.


NCAA National Wrestling Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist

When I interviewed Willie on my show on Takedown Wrestling, I pointed out to the listeners that he was born differently than some of us, with him having cerebral palsy, but he didn't let it dampen his love of competition. Willie proves that disability is only in the eye of the beholder. His life story is an inspiration not only to those with handicaps but to anyone who must overcome any challenges in their own life.


Sr. Vice President, Takedown Media

High school can be a tough time in a person's life. For Willie Burton, after a life of growing up different from his friends, walking different, talking different, he wasn't sure what he was going to find at Fairdale High School. But what he found was just what he needed – a brotherhood of teammates. We can all learn from Willie's story.


Feature Producer, ESPN E:60

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