Nate Burleson went from sleepless, hairless to next Michael Strahan


Nate Burleson is starting as a host on CBS’ morning show next week because he is cool on air. He gives off great vibes, as smooth and relaxed as anyone on television. 

While this is true, off-air, Burleson was so stressed at one point during his tenure at NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” that he lost his hair. 

Specifically, he couldn’t grow facial hair anymore. 

He went to a dermatologist, who asked if alopecia, a condition that prevents hair growth, ran in his family. Burleson said no. 

Burleson had major anxiety about the 4 a.m. GMFB wake-up calls, while attempting to be a good and present husband and father. He was trying to do it all — be great in the mornings, not miss his kids’ practices or games or a date night with his wife. 

It landed him at the dermatologist. As he said, it could have been a psychologist. 

“It was stress,” Burleson said via phone Tuesday. 

He has now figured it out to such a level that he has joined “CBS Mornings” as it moves to a new Times Square set. It is another step in what his turning into an amazing TV career. 

“I’m a dreamer,” Burleson said. 

He is becoming another Michael Strahan, though Burleson didn’t have the Hall of Fame, Super Bowl-winning, New-York-playing career of the Giant. 

During Burleson’s solid, but not spectacular, 11 years in the NFL, he played second fiddle to the likes of Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson. But there was something about him that resonated off the field. 

“This guy is just different,” Mark Lepselter, Burleson’s TV agent said. 

Nate Burleson went from sleepless, hairless to next Michael Strahan
“CBS Mornings” hosts, from left, Tony Dokoupil, Gayle King, and Nate Burleson on the set in New York.
AP

Non-TV people noticed it, too. In his stops as a player, Burleson recalls in Detroit and Seattle, personnel guys — the Lions’ Galen Duncan and the Seahawks’ Maurice Kelly — both told Burleson he was going to accomplish more and make more money after football.

He set high goals. 

“I wanted to transition from a former player, to an analyst that covered Xs and Os to hosting and then tap dancing into entertainment and then the complete evolution finally landing in news,” Burleson said. 

When he began at NFL Network in 2014, Burleson was only signed up for 60 or 70 dates and, back then, the day rate was around $2,000, which is not bad, but not NFL money. 

By 2016, Burleson was living in his wife’s home state of Arizona, making the easy commute to Los Angeles to be on the NFL Network. Life was good. While he had big dreams, he was satisfied. 

Nate Burleson went from sleepless, hairless to next Michael Strahan
Nate Burleson
Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

For GMFB, the job required a move to New York and 4 a.m. wake-up calls. 

New York’s vibe scared him a little, too. 

“When I went to visit, no one waved to me on the streets, the cars are moving too fast,” said Burleson, who grew up in Calgary, where his dad was a receiver in the CFL, and then Seattle. “I said, ‘I’m just a West Coast guy and I don’t think I can survive out there.’” 

He thought about it hard, talked it over and over with his wife, Atoya, and his mother, Valerie, deciding the answer was no. That was it. 

“It was the toughest decision,” Burleson said. 

Just as the decision seemed final, he looked in the mirror of one of the bathrooms in his home. He always preaches to his kids that you have to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.” He couldn’t contradict himself. 

He left the bathroom and told Atoya he wanted to take the job. She was “visibly upset,” he said. But quickly supported him. 

“There was a level of a leap of faith to be able to move for his wife and him from out west to live in northern New Jersey to work in New York five days a week,” Lepselter said. 

Nate Burleson went from sleepless, hairless to next Michael Strahan
Nate Burleson spent 11 seasons in the NFL.
AP

Lepselter felt it was a perfect fit, because of Burleson’s “engaging personality and his inquisitive spirit. And he is a performer.” 

Still, he had to tackle his fear of not sleeping. He did some research with other morning hosts, who said after three-to-six months, Burleson would get used to the 4 a.m. alarm clock. He said it took him three years. He lost his facial hair in the process. 

But he is great on TV. From “Good Morning Football,” he landed on “The NFL Today” as an analyst. He did work for “Extra.” He will continue to be on the CBS’s pregame and is expected to one day replace one of his mentors, James Brown, as host of the program. He will do spot duties for the NFL Network. 

Burleson is now a seven-figure TV star. If CBS is going to succeed with the slightly renamed “CBS Morning,” it will likely have to do a lot with a solid, 11-year NFL veteran, who never played in New York, never won a Super Bowl and is not a Hall of Famer. And who lost his hair when he first started doing mornings. 

CBS thinks it has a crossover star, and the network may be right.