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Burse Hopes to Re-Trace Welker's Path

Posted May 25, 2014

In the 2000's, Wes Welker was an undrafted returner who eventually became a standout slot WR. Isaiah Burse hopes history repeats itself.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Isaiah Burse's first preseason game is still nearly three months away. His regular-season debut is even farther in the distance, assuming he makes a 53-man roster.

But dreams have come true for Burse, just days into his NFL career. In his first week as a Bronco, the rookie wide receiver had his graduation ceremony from Fresno State University -- although he did not attend so he could work with the Broncos -- and met Wes Welker, a player he has watched from afar and admired.

Burse spent the last four years pursuing his bachelor's degree in criminology corrections. Now he'll pursue his master's degree in slot receiving, with Welker and receivers coach Tyke Tolbert as his professors.

Burse noted at the Scouting Combine that he wanted to be a "human sponge" if he had the chance to be around Welker. But he knows that he can only ask so many questions, since Welker has his own work to do.

"Every chance I get, I'm taking mental reps out there, and you're getting all the reps, 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," Burse said. "So that means a lot."

No one has done more as a slot receiver than Welker, whose quickness and efficiency helped redefine the potential of the position. At Fresno State, Burse studied Welker from afar and found a model to emulate.

"I feel like even in college, I did a lot of stuff he did," Burse said. "I was in the slot, I returned, and the fact that I became and 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."

But Burse didn't dream of running around on a practice field. Sundays in the fall are his goal. In the short term, his quickest path to playing time is as a kickoff and punt returner; he handled both duties at Fresno State.

The potential for a significant, immediate role and the chance to grow in a passing offense coming off the most prolific season in NFL history was too great for Burse to bypass after he went undrafted.

"Obviously other teams were calling me and making offers, but every offer they made, Denver was one-upping them every time," Burse said. "That, right there just sold me, like, I really want to be a part of the Denver organization, and then the fact that they really liked my return ability, I feel like I can come in and compete right away."

It was as a returner where Welker first found his niche with the Miami Dolphins a decade ago after playing that year's season opener with the San Diego Chargers. Welker did not catch a pass as a rookie, but he averaged 23.0 yards on 57 kickoff returns and 10.8 yards on 43 punt returns in 2004, scoring once. Welker continued to work extensively on returns until he joined the Patriots in 2007; by that time, he was ready to join the league's elite receivers.

This is the path Burse believes he can take.

"For me, it's like, I know I can do it," Burse said. "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, in the future."