Burl Toler III Lived his Dream, and now he is Helping Inspire the Next Generation to Live theirs.
Written by: Eli Kleinmann
It has all come full circle for Burl Toler III. The Bay Area kid who worked hard for every opportunity to live his dream of playing football is now back at his alma mater helping teach the next generation of Cal wide receivers.
Toler knew growing up that he wanted football to be his long-term career even before he stepped on the field. Toler said his love for football was a “natural progression of [him] growing up and being attracted to the game” and that it took little convincing for him to fall in love with football. While Toler first played football in sixth grade, his football journey started long before that. His first football experience were going to a Cal game as a young child with his father, who was a former Cal linebacker, and the rest of his family. His love of Cal as a young fan is what led to Toler knowing from the beginning that his dream was to play for the Golden Bears.
In high school, Toler played at Bay Area power house Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland where longtime coach Paul Perenon played a major role in his football development. With little recruiting interest but knowing that he wanted to play football at the collegiate level, Toler continued to fight for his dream. Through his hard work in the classroom, Toler was able to get accepted into Cal academically before getting an opportunity to walk on at his dream school.
Once at Cal, Toler made the most of the opportunity. He helped take a team that went 1-10 his freshman season to a team that went 10-2 and finished the year ranked ninth in the A.P. Poll. Yet for Toler, it all came together in the 2003 season when, as a junior, he was the second leading receiver on the team, earned a scholarship and scored his first touchdown in a triple overtime victory against USC. Toler describes the game as his top playing moment.
From there, Toler bounced around professionally playing for the Raiders and the Redskins while also playing in Europe, Canada and in the Arena Football League. Toler was living his dream playing professional football. Throughout his career, Toler was always on the move and although he admitted it wasn’t always easy, it was something he loved to do. Toler describes his career as an experience that “helped me learn about myself.” When Toler was traveling he said that he loved “experiencing other cultures” and finding connections between himself and others. While most of his professional career was played outside the NFL, Toler says, “I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”
In 2012, at the age of 30, Toler, who had been relentless in his pursuit to play in the NFL, decided it was time to move on. He says that by that time, the dream of returning to the NFL was no longer reality. However, the man who says he “always had a plan for his football career” was ready. Through his connection to long time Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, Toler got an opportunity to come work for Sonny Dykes as Cal’s special teams quality control coach. Toler again made the best of his opportunity. After three years at Cal he went to work at Fresno State and UC Davis as the wide receivers coach before returning to Cal in 2018.
Now Toler, who traveled the world to play the game he loves, is back coaching at the place he has always called home. He says he uses his incredible experiences playing football around the globe to “teach the youth.” Toler says that it is the aspect of teaching the next generation of players that makes coaching something he loves. He wants to inspire his players “to be relentless in pursuit of whatever [they] want to do”, and Toler is clearly an example of someone who accomplished his dreams by doing just that. When asked what his best moment coaching was, he responds with, “getting an opportunity to be back with a great coach at my alma mater.” He loves where he is and what he does. Clearly, Cal is lucky to have him.