Vontaze Burfict: Candidate for redemption?
As a freshman, Burfict came to Arizona State as the most highly-rated recruit in school history and it didn't take him long to make an impact. Just hours after gaining academic eligibility, Burfict went out in his first college game and registered 5 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a thundering quarterback sack in ASU's 50-3 cakewalk over Idaho State.
The sky was the limit.
But by the end of his junior season, Burfict was an afterthought on a Sun Devils' defense that desperately needed playmakers and veteran leadership. In what turned out to be his last college game, the player mentioned in the preseason as a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate didn't start and played just a handful of snaps as ASU was manhandled by a superior Boise State team in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Burfict announced he was going pro, despite a lackluster junior campaign plagued by diminishing productivity and continuing personal foul penalties. At the NFL Scouting Combine, his performance - both on the field and in team interviews - was legendary, but for all the wrong reasons. Burfict ran the slowest 40-yard dash among the linebackers in Indianapolis, put up a paltry number of reps in the bench press and raised eyebrows among team administrators and media members with his responses to interview questions.
A one-time sure-fire first round draft pick is now just hoping to hear his name called at any time during this week's NFL Draft.
Burfict, who spoke to the media on only a couple of occasions early in his Sun Devil career, is now making the rounds, and for lack of a better term, doing damage control in hopes of repairing his tarnished draft stock. Dennis Dillon of SI.com penned a piece on Burfict that talked about his demeanor on and off the field, and the startling revelation that his disastrous Combine performance was due to overwhelming nervousness.
At the Combine in Indianapolis, he bombed both in the drills on the field (he ran a tortoise-like high- 4.9 in the 40) and during his interviews with teams. The whole process overwhelmed him.
"Man, I'm always nervous," Burfict said during a telephone conversation from his Vegas hotel room. "But at the Combine, it was a nervous like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Especially looking up at all those coaches. For me to be in that spotlight, it was very nerve-racking."
The article also centers on Burfict's decision to change his workout routine and diet, which led to better performances in pro day workouts all while boosting his confidence.
"Whoever picks me in the draft is going to have a great middle linebacker," Burfict told Dillon.
Alyssa Roenigk of ESPN The Magazine also wrote a piece on Burfict and his rise from the ashes of Indianapolis.
Two weeks after ASU's pro day, at the end of March, Burfict has one final workout in front of scouts. He weighs in at 245 pounds, a number he hasn't seen since his freshman season. He clocks a 4.8 40-yard dash, laughs with players on the sideline and mingles with coaches and scouts between drills. He looks at ease.
Personally, I'm pulling for Vontaze Burfict. Sure, in the 33 years I've been watching Arizona State football, I've never been more frustrated by a single player - a player who had worlds of talent but regressed in every way during his stay in Tempe.
But like most, I can't resist a good redemption story. Burfict has had a tough 21 years on this planet, and hopefully the challenges of the last year will act as the fuel that propels him to greatness on and off the football field for years to come.
- Steve Patterson, ASU athletic director - Tuesday May 21Patterson talks about potential Pac-12 Bowl changes and how the NBA Lottery really works
- Steve Patterson, ASU athletic director - Tuesday May 14Patterson talks to the guys about the Territorial Cup & scheduling with Notre Dame Football
- Steve Patterson, ASU athletic director - Tuesday May 7Patterson talks to Doug & Wolf about the state of Sun Devil Athletics
- Steve Patterson, ASU Athletic Director - Thursday May 2Doug and Wolf talk to Patterson about the latest news coming out of the Pac-12 meetings.
- Brandon Magee , Former ASU Linebacker - Wednesday May 1Doug & Wolf ask Brandon Magee about signing with the Cowboys after going undrafted.