Buyer Beware: Two Prospects with Character Questions

Story posted February 13, 2012 in NFL Draft by Kevin Gallagher.

With the 2012 NFL Draft less than 80 days away, scouts, experts and fans are starting to look at prospects more seriously with the NFL season over. Two notable prospects on the defensive side of the ball in this year's draft are Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

Burfict was a three-year starter at Arizona State, averaging 76 tackles (7.5 for a loss), 2.5 sacks and 3.5 pass breakups per season at middle linebacker. In 2010, he was named a Sporting News First-Team All-American, the first Sun Devil to receive that honor since Terrell Suggs in 2002.

Kirkpatrick was a starter on this year's national champions, and may have been the best athlete in the Crimson Tide secondary. He registered nine pass breakups on the season and helped to shut down LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.

Burfict and Kirkpatrick look on paper like stud prospects with bright futures ahead of them. But both players have character issues that raise serious red flags for NFL teams scouting defensive players. Trouble has followed them both on and off the field for the last few months and could do serious damage to their draft stock.

Sporting News called Burfict the "meanest man in college football" this past summer, and he lived up to that title during the 2011 season. He received any flags for personal fouls, and his behavior on the field has been compared to the talented but troubled Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions.

Like Suh, Burfict has had to pay the price for his conduct. In a close game against California this season, Burfict was benched for the final 24 minutes of the game after a pair of personal foul penalties did not sit well with head coach Dennis Erickson.

He has earned his personal fouls through late hits, illegal contacts and even headbutting. During a 2010 game against Oregon State, Burfict headbutted quarterback Ryan Katz after a play in which Katz scrambled out of bounds. When confronted by one of his coaches, Burfict tossed the coach's arm away.

Burfict's on field behavior can be discussed for days on end. But for now, he will have to wow scouts with great interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine this month if he wishes to stay in the first round.

For Kirkpatrick, the issues have mostly been off the field. He was recently arrested for possession of marijuana. Fortunately for Kirkpatrick, the charges were dropped on February 8th.

While many players in recent years have had criminal incidents in the lead up to the draft (including Ryan Mallett, Aqib Talib and Matt Jones), it still has many potential suitors concerned about whether Kirkpatrick will be a liability. His record may technically be clean, but he has given teams reason to have concerns.

These two players are certainly still going to be drafted. They are too talented not to be. But questions about their character and ability to stay out of trouble can have a serious impact on their draft stock. They have given teams reasons to question whether they are talented enough to outweigh the potential headaches their trouble could bring.

Hotheads and criminals are not popular commodities in the pros, and to have them play a starter's role on any roster is always a risk. That is the risk some teams may be willing to take to draft players with great talent like Vontaze Burfict and Dre Kirkpatrick. But many NFL teams will have to be wary of the baggage each may bring. Buyer beware.

Kevin Gallagher is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and is ComRadio's Production Director. To contact him, email

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Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Kevin Gallagher graduated from Marple Newtown Senior High School in June 2009 before attending Penn State as a freshman that summer. Since his arrival on campus, Kevin has been a participant in the realm of broadcast journalism. His involvement started in Fall 2009 as a member of Penn State’s student radio station ComRadio. Since that time, Kevin has become Production Director at the station, while maintaining Lab Attendant activities as a senior. He is in charge of any on-air content and making weekly promos for sporting events and talk shows on ComRadio. Kevin is also a producer for ComRadio’s Penn State Football Pregame Show, which features guest interviews from professional sports personalities and writers, clips from weekly press conferences and live interviews with play-by-play announcers. Some guests over the past few years have included Eddie George, Brent Musburger and Penn State radio announcer Steve Jones. Kevin is also responsible for the creation and voice in the Pregame Show’s intro for every football game. Aside from his behind-the-scenes work, Kevin contributes to ComRadio’s website through feature articles and beat writes. He also does work through radio play-by-plays of Penn State sporting events such as football, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and baseball. In the Fall of 2011, Kevin was given the opportunity to participate in Big Ten Network’s Student U broadcast of Penn State women’s soccer. He took the opportunity and provided play-by-play commentary for the majority of women’s soccer games that season. Despite all of this work with radio communications, Kevin is currently participating in the Centre County Report television newscast at Penn State. The Centre County Report allows for students to create their own newscast out of stories and interviews they conduct in surrounding towns and counties. Thus far, Kevin has reported on stories ranging from devastating fires to Penn State’s Blueout football game earlier this season. Not only is Kevin a field reporter for the newscast, but he also provides behind-the-scenes work as producer for both the Centre County Report’s newscast and coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election. Through his experience in television, he has learned how to track newscast audio, use Final Cut Pro and post individual stories to the Centre County Report website. In the Spring, Kevin hopes to use these skills in Penn State’s In The Game, which is a sports-focused newscast. Outside of the classroom, Kevin has also worked as an intern for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. During his time at the station in Summer 2011, he was responsible for creating promos, podcasting sound to the 97.5 website and cutting sound clips for producers of talk shows such as The Mike Missanelli Show. Kevin considers his time at 97.5 one of the reasons he wants to be in broadcast journalism. In addition to this internship, he has also had other accomplishments during his time in college. In his freshman year, Kevin was accepted into the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. In his junior year, he was inducted into the Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society after obtaining a high GPA in his major. However, his talents are not limited to just journalism. In Summer 2011, Kevin was one of four members to compete for Penn State’s Stand-Up Comedy team in the TBS/Rooftop Comedy National College Comedy Competition. Penn State proved victorious in the competition, which sent Kevin and the other members to Los Angeles as part of the prize for first place. He hopes one day to be an entertainer, whether it be in news, sports or comedy. After graduation, Kevin hopes to either continue his education or find a full-time position in journalism. He can be found on Twitter: @kevgalla24 or at his email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).