Before every game, Lions receiver Nate Burleson and some of the other veteran leaders gather the entire team together in one of the end zones to deliver a final message before the game. Burleson is always animated when addressing his teammates and they seem to really respond to him.
Burleson is a natural leader, and a fitting choice for the Lions Mike Utley Spirit Award.
The award, which is voted on by the players, is presented to the Lions player who exhibited tremendous spirit, desire, dedication and work ethic.
“There are a lot of other accolades that you get from people out in the media land and stuff like that but there’s nothing like getting voted by your teammates,” said Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. “They are there everyday, they see what you do, they see your performance on Sunday’s and they know what you bring to the table.”
This is the second-consecutive year Burleson has won the award.
“He’s been great,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Burleson. “He and Kyle (Vanden Bosch) both have been great leaders for us. They’re great in the locker room, solid vets, they know how to prepare, great leaders for the young guys. Young guys look up to those guys.”
What Burleson brings to the locker room and to the meeting room and to the huddle is invaluable, but it wouldn’t mean as much if he weren’t getting it done on the field, too.
“Nate had 73 catches this year, which is a career-high for him,” Mayhew said. “He was very productive for us. He’s a really good, solid, move the chains type of guy. He has great run after the catch, he’s been a great pick-up for us. He’s worked out very well and we’re glad we have him.”
Burleson also chipped in 757 yards and three touchdowns to go along with those 73 catches. He is a tremendous blitz-buster because of his ability to get the ball quick and make a play after the catch. There isn’t a move Burleson won’t try on a defender one-on-one in the open field.
He also ran the ball 11 times with a 7.7-yard average.
Rookie Titus Young credited Burleson and Calvin Johnson for some of the success he enjoyed this season because of their willingness to work with him and be veteran mentors.
Burleson is always the first guy the media goes to during open locker-room sessions because he has a gage on everything going on in the locker room and with the team.
The award is named in honor of former Lions guard Mike Utley, who suffered a career-ending neck injury that left him paralyzed on November 17, 1991. Minutes after sustaining the injury, Utley flashed his teammates a “thumbs up” sign as he was being carted off the field. The gesture galvanized a team that won its next seven games and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
Tags: Calvin Johnson, Martin Mayhew, Mike Utley, Nate Burleson, Shawn Jefferson, Titus Young
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 4 Comments »