xpect the unexpected)
Nate Burleson: The Busiest Man in Broadcasting
By Moonah Ellison
Whenever I watch CBS Mornings, the first thing you notice is co-host Nate Burleson’s style: crisp, effortless, a little flair to add some sexiness to the morning. Hence to say, I watch the show every day. Since 2021, former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson has been co-hosting CBS Mornings with Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil, winning a News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Live News Special after their first season. From catching footballs to catching interviews, the Canadian-born Burleson has made quite a nice transition from the playing field to the television screen making it look as easy as a 10-yard curl.
It’s been nine years since Nate Burleson ended his National Football league career, 2014 to be exact. The 11-year veteran caught 457 balls and scored 39 touchdowns while amassing 5,630 receiving yards for three teams: Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Detroit Lions. Since then he has sat down and interviewed such star power including Barack and Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, Senator Cory Book- er, Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Michael J. Fox, and Bill Russell. Burleson won consecutive Sports Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Sports Personality/Studio Analyst in 2022 and 2021, as well as the winner of the Out- standing Playoff Coverage Emmy Award for the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon in 2021.When ex-athletes become commentators or work in media, the overall consensus is that they’re pigeon-holed to the sport they played. But for Burleson, it was important for him to show that he was more than football. “For me, I wanted to not necessarily conquer each space I’m in, but be well received in that space and then earn respect.”
Initially Burleson got into sports broadcasting right after his playing career ended. He was talking football and then was able to shift to entertainment, showing everybody that he was more well-rounded than they may think. “I owned a restaurant. I helped athletes invest money. I write poetry all the time. I write music, I started multiple clothing lines for guys. So all of these elements of who I am, people didn’t really get to see because I was just talking about sports. Now I can talk politics, finances, sports, pop culture, movies, music.”
Burleson’s plate is full, and it’s how he likes it. In addition to CBS Mornings, he is also a co-host of CBS Television Network’s NFL pregame show The NFL, NFL’s Slime time for Nickelodeon and the new CBS prime time competition series Super- fan, a show Burleson his “best job ever,” a show that gives fans the opportunity to create a bridge between the artist and their fan base and celebrate both. “We brought in mega stars [like] Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J, Shania Twain, Pitbull, to name a few. And we filled the audience up with super fans of these artists and five fans compete for a perfectly curated package put together by the artists.” Memory games, name that tune, charades, and lip sync contests are just some of the ways the fans are tested. “I love music. I’m an 80s baby, grew up in the 90s. So everything from R&B, hip hop, to pop and country. I’m from Seattle too, we’re a melting pot of culture and music. It’s a beautiful show, and it’s like one big party.
“For me, the great thing about working with Kelty Knight [Super fan creator] – and of course underneath this CBS umbrella – is that they give me the creative freedom to flex all of these different muscles. On a show like this there is no fake enthusiasm, you know, everything is authentic and I get to go off script and show my personality and also being a fan in real time. Example, the LL Cool J episode. It’s very clear that I would have easily traded places with one of the contestants. Halfway through the show, I just stopped everybody and said, ‘wait, wait, wait, can, can I compete for all of this?’ [laughs] It’s a fun show and it’s my first real introduction to the game show space which I’ve been patiently waiting to get into and waiting for the right opportunity.”
With every media space, it’s important to tell the story, get the facts right, educate. Especially in this digital media age and having an awareness of what you’re putting out there and the impact it can have on the viewer. “When I was a child we’d rush home to sit in front of the TV and we watched the breaking news together when there was something going on in our country,” reflects Burleson. “I feel that we have this immense responsibility to be aware enough to know that people that decide to tune into us are looking for the truth. They are looking for an unbiased approach, but they’re also looking for repeatability. And in this day and age where it’s not just linear TV, as we know, the traditional form of a TV sitting on a counter or hanging on a wall. Information is being consumed in a more intimate way, more intimate than it has been in years. In all reality, we have to embrace this way, because if a 15-year-old picks up his phone, and he is taking in this bite-sized information, this fast food content, him holding that phone in his hand can be the most impactful moment that will help shape minds. Gayle [King] says it a lot. We have a front row seat to history. And if you wake up with that mindset, you know you want to be on the right side of history.”
Burleson is a family man, having been married to his college sweetheart for the past 20 years. He has three children ages 19, 17, 13 and understands the burden families in this country have with student loans and the burden of paying top dollar to go to school and they are instead choosing other paths. “There have been members in my family, close friends, who have had that financial cloud hanging over their head their entire lives. It’s unfortunate because we are living in a new day and age where more and more people are saying this traditional path to becoming an adult might not be the path I want. I might not want to take out student loans and go to college and get a degree… So whenever we cover these topics on the show we make sure we approach it the right way.”
So what’s next for Burleson? For one he wants to concentrate on his media company Watch Media, where they will produce. content, everything from scripted to unscripted, starting with a really cool sports documentary, really can’t let the cat out of the bag, but it’s going to be the first project under- neath that umbrella.
For now, Burleson will charm us on CBS and he is humble and passionate to be a full frontal face on tv sets for years to come. “People oftentimes say, ‘Well, Nate, you have this big smile on your face and you always seem like you’re having fun.’ I am. I’m enjoying it. And I also know that the seat that I’m sitting in is prime real estate. There are people at this network that deserve the seat. There are people that have worked [here] their whole lives. They deserve this seat and initially when they see me, oh another football player, that’s another token athlete, the token black guy, he’s just there to add some seasoning to the meal. No, no, no, I’m much more than that. And my job was to show that every single day, and not only uphold the bar but raise it in areas I can.”
” …I feel that we have this immense
responsibility to be aware enough to
know that people that decide to tune
into us are looking for the truth… “