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‘Social butterfly’ Nate Burleson explains his unique leadership style

Posted Apr 7, 2014

New Cleveland Browns wide receiver Nate Burleson is a gifted communicator with advice galore to give Browns players.

New Browns wide receiver Nate Burleson

Nate Burleson is a gifted communicator with advice galore to give Browns players.

“What I always learned from veterans is that you give back to the league, what was given to you,” Burleson said during a conference call Monday with Browns media.

When asked to comment on his leadership style, Burleson, 32, began to elaborately describe his first few years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. He played alongside Randy Moss, but it was veteran receiver Marcus Robinson – also his direct competition – who mentored Burleson more. Robinson drilled home the point of team to the young Burleson, over individualism that is often seen in young wide receivers.

“[Robinson] was in my corner,” Burleson said. “I mean, he held me under his wing for an entire year. And I ended up being the starter. And I just never forgot that. So every individual I came across, whether they’re my age, free agent, draft pick coming in to play my position, I’m going to embrace it.”

Burleson said he isn’t going to stomp his feet and demand respect once he arrives in Cleveland. He plans on earning it by showing he works as an individual, how he shows up and acts professionally, and most importantly, playing at a high level.

“Guys respect playmakers,” he said. “With talented receivers already there, I’ve got to go out every day and show them that [I’m] a legit wide receiver.”

A self-proclaimed “social butterfly,” the key to his leadership style is actually not inside the locker room, it’s away from it. Taking teammates out to dinner, or just hanging out and watching television, Burleson says, is when the most important bonding occurs.

“We got the jerseys off and you kind of unveil yourself,” said Burleson. “And it’s not all football. That’s how I got so close to the receiving corps in Detroit. That’s how I got to know Calvin [Johnson] on a personal level.”

Johnson and Burleson’s relationship continued to blossom in Detroit. When Burleson wanted to work out twice in a day, Johnson wanted to do the same. When Burleson wanted to lead a drill, Johnson already had beat him to the punch. The duo developed a friendly competitiveness, pushing each other and the eventually the entire receiving group.

The player who stands to benefit the most is fellow receiver Josh Gordon, who turns 23 on April 13 and is already a burgeoning superstar. Their growth as a tandem is something Burleson is ready to embrace.

“The next big thing is here,” Burleson said. “It’s up to Josh to continue to play at a high level and stay consistent. And I think he has the right mindset for that.”

Now, Gordon has something else: the guidance of an established, optimistic veteran.

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