ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Isaiah Burse patterned his game after Wes Welker’s. After going undrafted, he’s even followed his idol’s path into the NFL.
The Fresno State speedster signed with Denver moments after the draft ended.
An undrafted free agent has made the Broncos’ 53-man roster for 10 consecutive seasons and Burse aims to extend that streak this summer as a wide receiver and returner, where there’s a big void following free agent Trindon Holiday’s departure to the New York Giants.
At 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds, Burse is built just like Welker (5-9, 185), who also started out as a return man after going undrafted out of Texas Tech before building a name for himself as the league’s premiere slot receiver.
Burse said he became Welker’s biggest fan as a teenager ”just (because of) his body type and the things he does in the slot, and how successful he was. I feel like even in college, I did a lot of stuff he did. I was in the slot, I returned, and the fact that I became an undrafted free agent, that just all goes together. It’s funny how he was an undrafted free agent, too, and he became so successful.
”Just seeing him is kind of like a dream. For me, it’s like I know I can do it. If he can do it, not taking away from his ability or anything, but I know if he can do it, I can do it. I want to learn everything from him so I can be successful, as well.”
He’s wasted no time in picking Welker’s brain, peppering him with questions in workouts over the last couple of weeks and said he can’t wait to watch him do his thing against defenses in organized team activities next week.
”Every chance I get … I’m asking what play this is, how would you run this route, or just stuff like that, and he sits there and takes the time and actually tells me, so that means a lot,” Burse said.
Burse made quite a name for himself in college, starting all 13 games in each of his four seasons at Fresno State, where he caught 100 passes for 1,026 yards and six TDs as a senior.
Those numbers were overshadowed, of course, by quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 50 TDs, and star wide receiver Davante Adams, who caught 131 passes for 1,719 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Carr and Adams were second-round draft picks by the Raiders and Packers, respectively.
”As far as Derek, I feel like he’s going to turn the Raider organization around,” Burse said. ”He just has that leadership quality and he obviously has the arm. We all know he has the arm. Just him being a leader and surrounding himself with good people, I just feel like they can make a run this year. Obviously, not when they play us, but they’re going to make a run, and I’m happy for both of them.”
Before this year’s draft, Denver general manager John Elway said it was getting harder to lure undrafted free agents who could make the final roster because the Broncos had gone from the bottom of the league upon his arrival in 2010 to AFC champions and therefore had fewer holes.
They were still able to sign three players who had been invited to the NFL scouting combine in Burse, Michigan State wide receiver Bernie Fowler and Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs, who led the nation with 31 TD runs last season.
Others notable signees include Duke running back Juwan Thompson, Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner, Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike and CSU linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Players know Denver isn’t a place where they’re only used to fill out the practice numbers but where there’s a legitimate chance to make the team no matter what path they took.
Only two teams, the Colts (15 years) and Chiefs (11 years) have longer streaks of undrafted players making their final rosters.
”I don’t want to say when I came in, I knew about it, because I didn’t,” Burse said. ”But obviously I read about it, and it really gave me motivation to work that much harder.”
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