Former O’Dea Seahawk Nate Burleson takes biggest step in domestic spotlight as ‘CBS Mornings’ co-host
Nate Burleson’s life these days is one of controlled chaos from the moment his 4:45 am alarm goes off.
Burleson is co-host of the recently launched and reimagined “CBS Mornings,” his biggest foray to date into the national spotlight outside of sports. This much-publicized and high-pressure work began on Tuesday with their debut show at their Times Square studio alongside fellow hosts Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil.
Burleson will remain as a studio analyst on CBS ‘”NFL Today” while contributing to the NFL Network and providing occasional visits to Nickelodeon, where he received universal applause for his work during the January broadcast of the playoff game. Bears-Saints intended for children. . Burleson prepared for this one by spending two days in his hotel room watching only the Nickelodeon shows he loved as a kid, which involved a lot of mud and mud.
Oh, and Burleson vows to spend some quality family time with his wife, Atoya, and three children, Nathaniel (17), Nehemiah (15) and Mia (11) at their upstairs New Jersey home.
What’s amazing is that Burleson navigates this fast-paced, highly competitive life while still exuding a relaxed sympathy in front of the camera which is one of his calling cards. He says his secret weapon is his football career, which took him from O’Dea High School in Seattle to an 11-year stint in the NFL as a wide receiver with the Vikings, Seahawks and Lions.
“That calm under pressure is what you need to play football,” Burleson said in a telephone interview last week. “So when there are 70,000 people and you are on the road the coaches are screaming, chaos happens, you are down five, you need a touchdown, the fans on the opposing team are you. yell at you and curse you, talk about your mom, you still have to listen to the game, go there, run, score touchdowns and win the game.
“I never forgot that feeling. Sometimes it seems like the whole house is on fire. And someone just needs to stabilize the chaos. And that’s where this calm comes from. It looks good on me because it puts me in a position where I’m always listening. Even though I have something to say. I can listen and respond to what’s going on in real time.
In real time, Burleson’s career explodes, like one of his mentors, Michael Strahan. Strahan also went from analyzing X and O to the world of entertainment and the maelstrom of morning news; Strahan recently offered to give Burleson some tips for making this transition. Burleson hosted “Good Morning Football” on the NFL Network for five years and was a correspondent on “Extra,” but that’s new territory.
“He’s like, ‘We have to jump on the phone. I want to tell you about these waters in which you are going to dive. Morning news is very different from morning sports. “
But while Strahan had a Super Bowl ring and Hall of Fame jacket to offer instant recognition, Burleson has neither. He’s caught 457 passes for 5,630 yards and 39 touchdowns over a solid career, and he still holds the Seahawks’ career record for career and season punt return distances. Burleson is also the only player in NFL history with three punt returns of 90 yards or more.
But perhaps the most lasting moment of his Seattle career from 2006-2009 came when Maurice Kelly, vice president of player engagement for the Seahawks, threw him a few flippant but essential words. Burleson heard them later reinforced by Galen Duncan, who had a similar position with the Lions.
They both told Burleson he would have a bigger impact outside of the game than he did inside. And more money too.
“I looked a little puzzled,” he recalls.
But these words turned out to be prophetic. Burleson started businesses, opened restaurants, launched a clothing line, joined the music industry, and wrote poetry. And towards the end of his career, he attended the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, designed to prepare players for careers in media.
The camp reinforced to Burleson that he has potential on camera. And also that he had a long way to go to get there.
“I thought it would be this cupcake camp where I see guys that I’ve played with and against, and we’re all going to laugh and joke and skate for a few days,” he said. “And it wasn’t that. It was like 10, 12 hour days. Lots of simulations and exercises.
“In the end, I was a bit unusual. But more importantly, I left realizing that I didn’t know much about the arts and crafts of being on TV.
Burleson began learning these lessons while working on local television in Detroit, where he won a regional Emmy that really opened his eyes to where television could take him.
“I went, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. I might not be able to win a Lombardi, but they hand out Emmys? Maybe I should look for different type material. “
The NFL Network eventually hired Burleson as a studio analyst and then gave him his morning gig, which he described as “Good Morning Football” meets “Good Morning America.” This has spread to a coveted spot on “NFL Today,” where Burleson is seen as the lead contender to one day replace James Brown as host. From 2019-21, Burleson had a gig as an entertainment correspondent for “Extra,” performing a number of prominent celebrity interviews.
This year, Burleson did indeed win that kind of different material when he won his first Sports Emmy for Outstanding Studio Analyst. And when he excelled as a backup host on the “CBS Morning Show” in June, when Dokoupil went on paternity leave, they offered him the full-time job.
“I think I’ve shown that I can exist in multiple spaces at the same time,” Burleson said. “I was doing an NFL morning show on ‘Good Morning Football’. I was talking to politicians, celebrities and influencers on “Extra”. And then, in the same season, I can maintain, with my broadcast team, a kid-focused NFL broadcast that is truly the first of its kind. “
Through it all, Burleson holds firm to his Seattle roots, where his family forged a huge athletic legacy. Nate’s father, Al, played the role of defensive back for the Huskies (his 90-yard interception return in the ’75 Apple Cup is legendary) and in the CFL and USFL. Brother Al Jr. also played for the Huskies. Another brother, Kevin, played in the NBA and now coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Burleson’s younger brother Lyndale played basketball in Nevada (Nate’s alma mater). Nate’s parents, Al and Valerie, still live in Seattle.
“I have the Space Needle tattooed on my body,” he said. “That tells you how much I love the 206.”
Nate fondly remembers the brawls in the backyard with his brothers whom he feels hardened. And her love of the camera which now takes her to the heart of the morning TV wars began here as well. Burleson dreamed of hosting an Arsenio Hall-like talk show on NFL Network.
“If I can find some of the footage, maybe we’ll show it on ‘CBS Mornings’,” he said with a laugh. “There are times when I control the room. You would think I was a young broadcaster in the making. We were doing these talent shows, and I felt so at home, having the stage to myself. So maybe my mom and dad saw it coming.