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The NFL Network made the right choice selecting former wide receiver Nate Burleson to co-host its morning show, Good Morning Football. While playing with future Hall of Famers Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson during his 11 seasons, he averaged more than 40 catches. But his charisma—as a TD celebrator and postgame orator—was tailor-made for TV. Now, Burleson, 35, gives viewers a daily dose of football knowledge, as well as a weekly celebration of the league’s fanciest catches in his segment called “Toe Drag Swag.”
M&F: Is there a better talker in the NFL today than you were?
NB: I wouldn’t tell you I was the best receiver. I couldn’t be Randy or Calvin. But I don’t know if I can tell you that there’s anybody better than me who can talk in the league right now. You’d have to prove it to me. I’m really good at talking.
So what is this “Toe Drag Swag” you highlight on GMFB?
It’s the extra stuff. What are you doing after you catch the ball? How do you celebrate without looking like an ass or embarrassing the team but still give the fans something they can appreciate?
Did your first toe-drag experience go as you’d envisioned?
It was my first touchdown! I was with Minnesota, and we were playing the 49ers. Gus Frerotte threw me a ball over the middle. [As I’m scoring], in my head I was thinking to myself, “All these celebrations I worked on…” and I couldn’t remember any of them. I went blank and just did a little two-step.
What players possess the most swag in the league?
Antonio Brown is that guy who encapsulates and defines the word swag. He got the haircut—the box, the Lego, the invert Mohawk. His end zone celebrations, the way he carries himself, it’s just with immense confidence. It’s just, like, swag sauce drippin’ off of him. The guy could wear a fur coat in the summer and still be as cool as ever.
The reason I love Odell Beckham Jr.’s swag is because he’s a trendsetter—he’s wearin’ the fancy gloves, fancy cleats. He’s got the hair style. When kids are walkin’ into a barber shop—you’re talkin white kids, Asian kids, Indian kids, every single ethnicity—sittin’ in the chair, sayin’, “Yo man, hook me up with the Odell,” that’s a big deal. Urban culture runs the world. Cool is the definition of what our youth are doin. Every kids wants to be like Odell, whether they’re dyin’ their hair, getting’ the Mohawk with the parts in the back. That to me is ultimate swag. That’s a guy settin trends on and off the field. And his fashion is phenomenal.”
Tom Brady is like, classic swag. He’s like Jay Z’s music—timeless. You listen to Jay Z’s first album, it sounds like he made it yesterday. You look at Tom Brady play, he looks like a little kid who just got in the league playing with that wonderment of Carson Wentz. But then you pay attention and you realize, no, this dude’s a living legend and has been in the game a lot longer than the guys playing now.
I love cornerback Patrick Peterson. He’s the overwhelming swag. He’s the guy who was born with the tools that everybody wants. When the football gods made football players, they hit Peterson with the special stick. Boom! “Patrick, we’re gonna give you speed, agility, quickness. We’re gonna make you a guy who can play offense, defense. You can have hands like a receiver but you can hit like a safety and defend like a cornerback.”
And you can’t mention swag without mentioning Cam Newton. Cam is the most fashion-forward guy in the league. He’s another guy who 10 years ago would’ve been a defensive end rushing the quarterback. Now he is the quarterback. And that shows how the game is evolving and changing. When we talk football, everybody’s getting bigger, faster, stronger. And if you don’t believe that, look at Cam. He’s bigger faster, stronger and he’s throwing the ball, which is why he’s so hard to defend. Off the field, he wears whatever he wants. You may not agree with it, but we’re talking about it. And that’s the definition of swag.”
And Russell Wilson is similar in the vein of Tom Brady. He’s just like, clean-cut, pure swag. He’s that swag that hasn’t been diluted or influenced by anything. Everyone takes a little swag from someplace. He just does him. He doesn’t let the swag sauce of anyone else drip on him. And that’s what I can appreciate about Russ. He’s pure. He’s that guy that everyone wants to be, and he’s the one that you want your daughter to date. If that ain’t the definition of swag, I don’t know what is.
You’re a Seattle native, just like the reigning Mr. Olympia.
Phil Heath’s my guy. We went to the same school. We’d wrestle when we were around 9 or 10. We all loved WWF, so we’d be rippin’ our shirts, tearin’ up our clothes, breathin’ all heavy. I used to hold my own with Phil, but he’d still get the best of me.
You guys still keep in touch?
We text all the time. I was doing a photo shoot, so I hit up Phil: “Bro, I gotta get shredded.” I’m all skin and bones. “Hook me up.” So he sent me this regimen, and I tried it. I didn’t get big, but it had me shredded.
How do you train these days?
I love CrossFit. It’s a routine you can’t get used to, so you’re always gonna be hurtin’. And pain is the appetizer to the entrée of success.
You must dominate the box.
This woman was doing a helluva lot of weight. My friend Darnell was like, “You gonna let this girl outlift you?” I’m thinking, “I can add more weight,” but my body was saying, “No more, Nate.” So I just gracefully bowed out and I said to her, “You got it today.”
So you got whupped?
One hundred percent. And proud to say it.
Fast Fact: Burleson’s clothing line, LionBlood (lionblood.com) was named as a tribute to his playing days in Detroit.