Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson speaks at Todd Beamer High School

Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson talks to Todd Beamer High School students on Dec. 1. - Kyra Low/The Mirror
Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson talks to Todd Beamer High School students on Dec. 1.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

For Keith Wheeler, principal at Todd Beamer High School's Academy of Global Leadership and Economics, he was just a special friend — one he had had since childhood.

For the Todd Beamer students in Wheeler's academy, this friend was a role model and a highly anticipated guest speaker.

"He's been a more outstanding friend since the age of seven, when he wasn't as strong or as tall as he thinks he is," Wheeler said, introducing Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson.

Burleson came to the school to speak as a favor to Wheeler. Both grew up in South Seattle.

Burleson spoke of the time when he was in the students' shoes. In high school, he was a three-sport athlete, but also tried music and drama.

"You never know what you are going to be great at until you try," Burleson told the students.

Football wasn't what Burleson necessarily thought he would be doing in the future. He was one of four boys in the house, and said his friends and brothers were always better than him at sports. In his senior year of high school, Burleson only had 14 catches at O'Dea High School. He didn't know if football was going to pan out in college, so he chose to go more for the education. He majored in business management and minored in communications because as he put it, "Whatever I did, I wanted to know how to count my money and talk to people."

The football thing did pan out: By his senior year at the University of Nevada in Reno, he had 138 catches, the most in the nation.

He got there by sticking with it, he said.

"Do exactly what it is you want to do," Burleson said. "If the sky's the limit, why would you want to put a roof on it? What's the point in being average? Ultimately, what you do and where you go is up to you."

He also had one more piece of advice for students.

"Enjoy high school," he said. "You're never going to get it back."

Speaking to the students wasn't the only reason why Burleson came. There was one surprise for Superintendent Tom Murphy. Wheeler and Burleson presented Murphy with a autographed jersey, as part of a retirement gift for the superintendent. In October, Murphy announced his retirement after more than a decade as the leader of Federal Way schools.

"I've been touched this morning by this gift," Murphy said. "The 42 years I've been teaching haven't been drudgery — they've been joy. You've added to that joy today."

Students were also told that over the next few weeks, there will be special gifts given around the academy from Nate Burleson for students showing hard work and excelling in academics.

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