Before former wide receiver Nate Burleson retired from the NFL, he was preparing for a career in media during his playing days and it has helped lead him to high-profile positions on NFL Network, The NFL Today on CBS, and now on CBS Mornings.
On The Big Suey on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, Burleson talked about his journey to get to where he is today in the broadcast industry and while he wouldn’t be on-camera sometimes at the NFL Network during his playing career, he was taking in everything that he could.
“Even when I was playing, I was working in the media space,” Burleson explained. “Whether it was with the local teams (local radio), the team network. Every offseason, I would fly to California, go over to Culver City, and I would do the NFL Network. If you are playing, they aren’t paying. It wasn’t like I was making money. Sometimes, I wasn’t even on TV. I was just sitting back, rubbing shoulders, looking at what was going on behind the scenes.
“From the moment I entered the league (2003), that was the moment I did something in the media space every single year, whether it was with my team, NFL Network, or local news. Once I figured out how long my career was going to last and it was nearing the end, I did the broadcast boot camp that the NFL offered. I was a little bit of a “standout” and I don’t say that to pat myself on the back. We had all these applicants (over 1,000 submitted), 30+ guys were there. They were like, ‘Hey, you are a standout; you can be really good at this.’”
While the people at the broadcast boot camp saw Burleson as a standout, he had moments where he felt like a rookie as well. He had to learn the art of being on television and to try not to be like some of the former players at NFL Network that he grew up watching.
“The reason I bring that up is because when they were calling me a standout, I realized I didn’t know squat about being on TV, like the actual craft,” Burleson said. “Everything from the smallest of details like placement of your hands, body language, eye contact, being concise with your words, in and out of conversations, being a host vs. analyst. As they were complimenting me, I felt like a rookie in this entirely new space. It just made me want to work harder.
“When you go to the NFL Network after an 11-year career, I don’t look in the mirror and see a guy that shouldn’t get praised, but I am very self-aware of who I am when I am standing in the room with absolute legends. You walk into NFL Network and it’s Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Willie McGinest. All of these dudes that I have looked up to at one point. I thought let me sprinkle in a little bit of them in what I do on TV… Then, I figured out who I am.”
Once Burleson found out who he was as an analyst, he realized he could be that person who could connect the players from the past and the players today and that’s when everything started opening for him:
“I’m this young kid who was raised in humble beginnings from Seattle, a blend between a jock and a nerd. I love cartoons, I love writing poetry, I love hip-hop, I love watching movies, I’m a man of the people. I love black culture. I walk it, I talk it, I live it, I breathe it,” said Burleson.
“That’s who I am. Be that guy on TV because that guy resonates and that guy has a grasp of what’s going on in the league. He can touch the guys from yesteryear and he can reach and touch the guys that are playing today. Once I figured out my voice, it just seemed like doors started opening.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
Jason Barrett Podcast: Jeff Smulyan, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down
There would be no sports radio if not for Jeff Smulyan. He takes JB through the triumphs and disappointments of his career and explains why he is sharing so many stories in a new book, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down. To pick up your copy, click here.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Zolak & Bertrand: Kirk Herbstreit’s Comments A Wake Up Call For Patriots Fans
“Next time you feel like they shouldn’t be booing them, there’s someone from a national perspective – who has been calling games now in the NFL for at least all of this year – but is very familiar with the league and all the different cities and he’s been in college environments for a decade plus, and said their fans aren’t angry enough.”
Things appeared to come to a head for the New England Patriots and their fans last week as the team fell to the Buffalo Bills 24-10.
Many fans of the Patriots with the loss seem to have accepted the fact that the glory days of the franchise are officially over. Thursday Night Football analyst Kirk Herbstreit even noted that it was off-putting that fans near his broadcast vantage point were fine with the Pats coming out on the losing end.
“I just felt the sense of acceptance of where they are,” Herbstreit said during a Friday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “It really shocked me. I’m just so used to the Patriots’ 20 years of excellence, and not just the NFL in all of professional sports. And to see their fan base just like, we suck, whatever, game’s over, like early they were like that.”
On Zolak & Bertrand Monday, co-host Scott Zolak disagreed with Herbstreit’s take.
“I don’t know what you want from a fan base to do after that when the game’s over, and the place starts to dump out,” he said. “The game was well in hand.”
Zolak’s cohort Marc Bertrand felt differently, praising Herbstreit for offering that sort of perspective.
“Next time you feel like they shouldn’t be booing them, there’s someone from a national perspective – who has been calling games now in the NFL for at least all of this year – but is very familiar with the league and all the different cities and he’s been in college environments for a decade plus, and said their fans aren’t angry enough,” Bertrand said. “They let ’em off the hook.”
Bertrand felt like Patriots fans had every right to be pissed off with the product the team put on the field last week and have done so far this season. Especially when people are paying top dollar for admission to games.
“That product doesn’t match those prices last Thursday night,” he said, continuing to agree with what Herbstreit said. “You don’t hear that a lot around here. So I thought it was a nice change up.”
Zolak and Bertrand both seemed to determine that perhaps it was a case of fans being too nice and being willing to accept failure from head coach Bill Belichick and his staff.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
Paul Finebaum: ‘I’ve Been Accused Of Giving Up Objectivity For Nick Saban’
“I’ve been a flag waiver for Nick Saban since the day he got there.”
People not from the state of Alabama may not realize that there was a time when there was no more vocal critic of the football team than Paul Finebaum. On Monday morning, he told Cole Cubelic of JOX 94.5 in Birmingham that his perspective began to change in January 2007.
“I’ve been a flag waiver for Nick Saban since the day he got there,” Finebaum admitted.
To be fair to Finebaum, Saban and the Crimson Tide have won five national championships and eight SEC championships since his arrival. It has been way easier to wave the flag than find fault.
Paul Finebaum says that some people don’t see it as that simple though and he has had to learn to accept some criticism.
“I’ve been accused of losing all my objectivity and focus to support Saban,” he said. “I believe in that because I believe he has completely transformed that school into what it is today.”
Acknowledging that Saban has been a game changer not just for Alabama football, but for the university itself, doesn’t mean that Paul Finebaum never has anything critical to say about the coach and his team. In fact, he told Cubelic that he was really put off by the way Saban campaigned for Alabama to be included in the upcoming College Football Playoff.
“For a coach of Nick Saban’s intellect to go on national television and use the point spread as a reason for entrance, when he was a big favorite in the two games he lost, he was an overwhelming favorite at Texas, the game where he needed a last-second field goal, and probably was the game that cost him the birth in a TCU head-to-head comparison.”
Saban appeared on multiple television shows and halftime shows stating that if you put Alabama up against any of the other teams in consideration for the final two spots, they would be the favorites. Finebaum thought it was a step too far.
“I want to make it clear,” he said. “I understand Nick Saban standing up for his program. I’ve hear people say ‘well, every coach would do that’. Well, you know what? I didn’t see Ryan Day doing that. I didn’t see Josh Heupel doing that. I saw Nick Saban doing that and I think that is what was so startling to me.”