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THE MOST nerve-racking game of the season for Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson? Seattle's Dec. 14 showdown with the 49ers. It wasn't the prospect of facing a division rival that rattled him but rather how he would look when he took his weekly pregame runway-style strut in front of his teammates in the locker room. The 6-foot, 192-pound Burleson, 25, has a custom-tailored suit in the colors of each Seahawks opponent that he wears to each game, and as he surveyed his brand-new red-and-gold, velvet 49ers number--with a butterfly collared shirt--he thought to himself, It's kind of loud.
As it turned out, results that day were mixed. The Seahawks, playing sloppily, lost the game, but Burleson, in his teammates eyes, looked spiffy. "The suit was nice," says D.J. Hackett, another wide receiver and Seattle's self-appointed fashion arbiter. "It wasn't as flashy as you'd think, for red velvet. It had taste to it."
The idea for the team-colored suits came last summer from Peter Roberti, a tailor at Adrian Jules Custom Tailors in Rochester, N.Y., where Burleson began getting clothes last year on the recommendation of former Vikings teammates Sam Cowart and Keith Newman. "At first I thought, That's kind of extreme," said Burleson of the suit-of-the-week plan. "But my wife [Atoya] said she liked the idea."
And so Burleson showed up in a single-breasted four-button royal-blue suit for the Seahawks' opener at Detroit. He sported a purple, sleeveless five-button suit for the Oct. 22 game against Minnesota. For this Saturday's playoff opener against the Cowboys, a matchup that was not set until Sunday, Roberti, who has about 75 clients in the four major team sports, had only three days to design and tailor a suit in Dallas's blue and silver--not that the rushing ever shows. "He's definitely got it going on," Seahawks corner Jimmy Williams says of Burleson. "Very debonair. I'm impressed."
That kind of response is why Burleson plans to continue the practice next season. "Every weekend I get a compliment," he says. "I think I'm up there with the best-dressed guys in the league." He's also the only Seahawk who's already dreading next season's visit to Cleveland. Says the man who prefers vivid hues to muddy earth tones, "I'm scared to play the Browns."
ON THE VIKINGS
"When you put that on, you feel like you've got all the swagger in the world," says Burleson. "It's got the matching top coat and the matching hat. It's a bit much, but once you actually complete it and put it on--which takes me about 30 minutes--it looks good."
"That's the pizzazzy, snazzy one. I told [Roberti] when he was making my suits, I like to attract a little attention, but I don't want to be that guy that everybody looks at who's trying to do too much."