06/19/2012 3:17 PM
The name “Burl Toler” and football are almost synonymous. The San Antonio Talons receiver is not the first Burl Toler to make an impact on the game of football.
He is actually Burl Toler the third.
Toler III’s grandfather, Burl Toler Sr. played linebacker at the University of San Francisco, out of college he was a first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns. However, after a career-ending injury in the NFL Champs vs. College All-Stars game, his dreams of playing football came to a halt, but his aspirations for being on the field he loved did not. Toler Sr. went on to become the first African American official in professional sports. He was an official in the NFL for 25 years.
“I don’t feel like I can ever be disappointed or give up or complain about anything after realizing what he (Toler Sr.) had to go through,” Toler III said. “There was just no denying him, he was able to knock those barriers down and he was determined.”
San Antonio’s Toler makes it a point to honor his father and grandfather by donning the name “Toler III,” on the back of his jersey.
“When referees ask me if I’m related to Burl Toler Sr., I take pride in saying ‘yes, he is my grandfather, we share the same blood.’”
Toler Sr. made a name not only for himself but also for his son and grandson in the sport of football.
Toler II, walked-on the football team at University of California -Berkeley. After two years he earned a spot as a starter for the Golden Bears and was eventually drafted to the San Diego Chargers following his senior year of college. While he did not see playing time in the NFL he made his mark on both the Cal football program, and eventually his two young sons.
Toler II and his wife, also a graduate of UC Berkeley, would take Toler III and his younger brother, Cameron, to the football games at their alma mater.
“I remember going to Cal football games, and I thought it was the best feeling ever just sitting in the end zone watching,” Toler III said. “With two minutes left in the half my brother and I would always run down to the tunnel and would wait for the players to run off just so we could get a sweaty high-five.”
Toler III, began playing football in the sixth grade in the Pop Warner league, after making an agreement with his mother that he would get straight A’s on his report card.
“I ended up receiving all A’s and one B+,” Toler said. “I was so disappointed but my mom knew how hard I worked and how badly I wanted to start football so she agreed to let me play.”
Despite not receiving a football scholarship right out of high school, Toler III was determined to play and to play at Cal.
In his freshman year, he walked on the team at Cal and eventually earned a scholarship for his junior and senior years. In his senior year, he led the team in receiving.
After graduation, Toler III, hung up his cleats and taught first grade at Emerson Elementary in Berkeley.
“I was feeling pretty beat up and at the time, thought I was done playing,” Toler III said.
Following one year of teaching he began feeling better and started working out to get back into playing shape. He signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2006, and had made the initial roster but was cut when the season started. After being released, he was assigned to the San Jose SaberCats for the 2007 season, but the week leading up to the first game, he was allocated to the NFL Europe and played in Germany for one season. When he returned to the U.S., he signed with the Washington Redskins and remained with the team off-and-on through 2008.
In 2009, Toler III spent a season playing with the Italian Football League.
“I loved it out there,” Toler III said. “It’s an Italian League so the talent level isn’t as good but I was still playing football and enjoying myself.”
Following his stint in Italy, Toler III returned home in 2010 and was assigned to the San Jose SaberCats in October. However, eight days before the start of training camp, he was released. He spent time in the CFL following his release from the AFL. The SaberCats brought him back in 2011 for nine games and he tallied 46 catches for 516 yards and 4 touchdowns in the season.
Before the start of the 2012 season, Toler III was assigned to the Predators, but was released prior to the first game. He was picked up by the San Antonio Talons in Week 6.
Toler III has found his rhythm in San Antonio, becoming one of the team’s leading receivers.
“When I first came, having the leadership of guys like Aaron Garcia, Jomo Wilison and Brent Holmes really helped,” Toler III said. “I was able to feel comfortable with the offense within the first week or two.”
After suiting up for eight games this season, Toler III has recorded 40 catches for 484 yards and 14 touchdowns.
At 10-3, the Talons are in first place in the Central Division, amidst a seven-game winning streak.
“The chemistry we have over here is great, we just have winners and there’s a high expectation if you want to play for this team,” Toler III said.
Toler III said that the team is taking each game one week at a time and he is just enjoying the experience.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Toler said. “This is my eighth team professionally, I’ve enjoyed every chapter and I feel like I’m in this position for a reason.”
His grandfather, father and his younger brother, Cameron, who followed in his older brother’s footsteps and played football at UC Berkeley, have been major resources for advice.
“My grandfather used to always say ‘son, do your best and the best will be good enough’. And he wasn’t saying it strictly for football but I would always apply it to that,” Toler III said.
Toler III was never forced to go to Cal, or even to play football but he always knew it was what he was destined to do.
“It’s just something that was instilled in me while I was growing up, and as I got older, just hearing stories about my grandfather and my dad raised my passion level,” Toler III said. “It’s just a part of me, I can’t shake it.”