Mike was a High School classmate of Richard Rider (AKA Nova) and his rival for the affections of Ginger Jaye. Mike played on the same basketball team as Rider and often bullied him. At one point, he was kidnapped by the Sandman, who had been hired to snatch Mike in order that his brother's criminal employers could exert pressure on him.
One might dismiss Mike as a dumb jock but this is untrue. Mike Burley was the best student in his high school. Mike's father is an engineer and his older brother was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. Mike's father and brother often pushed him to succeed.