When the Cleveland Browns signed Nate Burleson this offseason, they got more than a wily 11-year veteran who has caught 39 touchdown passes in the NFL.
They also got a proven leader, and a mentor for their immensely talented young receiver Josh Gordon.
“If we could have a whole locker room of Nates, we’d never have to worry about anything and we’d be the best organization in the NFL,” Detroit Lions Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said of Burleson in 2013, his fourth season with the team.
Burleson caught 39 passes for 467 yards in an injury-shortened 2013 season with the Lions. He signed with the Browns on April 6.
“I’m not going to come in and try to stomp my feet and demand respect,” Burleson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot after signing with the Browns. “I’m going to earn respect by how I work as an individual, how I show up and be a professional and more importantly make plays. Guys respect playmakers, and with talented receivers already there, I’ve got to go out every day and show this is a legit wide receiver. Not only is he legit, but he’s got over a dozen years in the NFL. I’m going to lead by example and then establish those relationships. If I can take a guy out to dinner, hang out outside of the locker room, then I’m definitely going to do that ’cause that’s one of the more important times when the lessons are learned, when you’ve got the jerseys off and you kind of unveil yourself and it’s not all football.”
NFL.com’s Kevin Patra reported that while Burleson will get the opportunity to be the team’s third receiver, his more important role with the Browns will be as mentor to ascending receiving talent Josh Gordon. Burleson started his career on the same field as Randy Moss in Minnesota, and has spent the past four seasons in Detroit helping Calvin Johnson transform into Megatron. Burleson now joins last season’s leading receiver, Josh Gordon.
“I was able to really get to know Calvin (Johnson) on a personal level because we spent so much time with each other off the field,” Burleson told the Plain Dealer. “That’s the plan. I’m going to continue to do that. That’s part of my nature, though. I’m a social butterfly, and I feel like positive conversation, positive reinforcement is always going to supersede anything else.”
Burleson was born in Canada while his father played in the Canadian Football League. Alvin Burleson played defensive back for the Calgary Stampeders from 1976 to 1981.
“I’ve got a Canadian flag tattooed on my leg, so I am definitely representing all of the Canadians out there,” Burleson told the Windsor Star in 2010. “I’m my dad’s biggest fan. His stint in Calgary was his longest, so that’s what I remember growing up. I used to go up to the attic and rifle through all of his boxes. Wrist bands, track jackets, warm-up pants, shorts. I’d wear them around the house, hoping to be something like my father.”
Burleson was drafted in the third round (71st overall) by the Minnesota Vikings in 2003. He played three seasons with the Vikings, four with the Seahawks and the past four seasons with the Lions.