Burleson should be playing on Sundays next August

Most people think Nate Burleson has a difficult decision to make. It shouldn't be. If the Nevada wide receiver can go in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, peace out Reno.

But there he was after the Wolf Pack's 44-7 loss to Boise State at Mackay Stadium last Saturday trying to justify maybe coming back.

"I haven't made that decision yet," Burleson said. "I just want to see what will happen. Getting blown out like this, it really makes you want to come back."

For what?

Another losing season. A possible winning season. A possible www.youmustbejoking.com bowl bid. Oh yeah, I almost forgot...

"He's got that whole education thing," joked quarterback Zack Threadgill.

Of course. Taking notes. Writing 10-page papers. Studying for tests. Getting up for class. Where do I sign up for that again?

Burleson was a partial qualifier out of Seattle's O'Dea High School and so his four-year clock started during his freshman season even though he couldn't play. But if he graduates in four years, which he is scheduled to do after next semester, Burleson, who is listed as a senior, can earn back that first year.

The only year that matters, though, is his third year. His breakout year. Burleson caught 137 passes this season, five shy of breaking Manny Hazzards' NCAA record for receptions in a season. He's tall, has outstanding hands and loves the game.

The only problem is that he might be too nice for the NFL. He has this boyish smile and gentle presence that John Lynch would love to exploit.

"I remember something my pastor once said to me," Burleson recalled to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. "There's a reason your windshield is bigger than your rear-view mirror. You're supposed to be looking ahead, not behind."


There is nothing for Burleson at Nevada, except if he would rather look at below average cheerleaders on Saturdays than a chance to scope out the Raiderettes on Sundays. And he would have plenty of chances because he wouldn't see the field that much. The only reason he should be catching passes from McQueen sophomore quarterback Jeff Rowe (more on that later) next fall is if Mel Kiper Jr. says the jury is still out on Burleson.

And the things Kiper might say could have some merit. Numbers are deceiving. Weak conference. Weak defenses in that conference. Pass happy team. Yards per catch aren't great. Too many short catches (49ers would love to have him). Needs to show more of an all around game.

His draft status could slip and it would then be smart not to enter the draft. He could come back next season with tons of attention on him and become a first rounder.

But if he participates in NFL combines next spring, which most seniors do, he can dazzle his doubters and improve his stock. Teams will track his 40-yard dash time, how many times he can bench 225 pounds in 30 seconds, how many times he can pick his nose in 15 minutes, how many cars he can buy with $1 million. You know, the important stuff that tells what kind of wide receiver he will be in the NFL.

If he does that, he will have given up his final year of eligibility. He wouldn't be able to return to Nevada because juniors, which is essentially what he is, aren't allowed at NFL combines unless they have officially declared for the draft. It's not like in college basketball where underclassmen can enter pre-draft camps and if they aren't projected as a high draft pick and haven't signed with an agent, can then come back to school. Which makes me think college football should do the same but that's an entirely different column.

"There are doors of opportunities open for Nate. You don't want your last one to end like this," Threadgill said.

If you're an overachieving quarterback from Glendale, Ariz, no you don't.

One of the doors Burleson shouldn't open is coming back and having Rowe throw him passes all season when he's trying to showcase himself. Rowe will be a good quarterback at Nevada but I wouldn't put my professional career in the hands of somebody who was only a starting quarterback in high school for one year.

"Should I end it this way or end it the right way," Burleson asked.

Any way that allows you to catch passes on Sundays, Nate, is the right way.

Jeremy Evans is a Nevada Appeal sports writer.


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