Until last fall, Nate Burleson didn't think he would be an NFL player unless he caught a break. His professional future, he thought, might be in the World League, hoping to impress a coach enough to give him a shot in training camp.
Instead, a broken leg changed his life. The University of Nevada was intending to use a running game as the basis of its offense until its starter broke his leg, forcing Nevada to employ a variation of the run-and-shoot offense. The result? Burleson caught 138 passes (four short of a NCAA record) for 1,629 yards and 12 TDs.
"It was sort of a blessing in disguise because we had to throw the ball," Burleson told VU. "I was fortunate enough to be the No. 1 receiver, so I was in a position to where most balls were coming to me."
His Minnesota connections are numerous. His brother Kevin played college basketball at the University of Minnesota. Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan recruited him out of high school and knows his family well. And he even has a connection to new teammate Randy Moss.
"For the last three or four years, I've been playing with Moss on the video games," Burleson told VU. "I'd say ‘I'm picking Randy Moss today. I'm Randy Moss.' I would go into practice and tell my guys at Nevada ‘I'm going to be Randy Moss today and go out there and make plays.' Obviously, he's a tremendous athlete and I can't do half the things he can do, but I just try to take bits and pieces from great players, and he's definitely one of the greatest players in the league right now."
As for the tag of being a possession receiver instead of a speedster, Burleson takes that comment in stride.
"I think (that tag) just meant I caught a lot of balls," Burleson told VU. "I don't think it means I'm a slow receiver. I think it means if third down is coming up and you need somebody to get that first down for you, I'm one of the guys that the ball should be thrown to."
Considering the lack of depth the Vikings have seen in recent years, his chance to parlay his college success to the pros could be much closer than a lot of people think -- or even Burleson thought eight months ago.
Nate Burleson's Reaction
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