The Curious Case of Vontaze Burfict

Story posted February 28, 2012 in NFL Draft by Troy Weller.

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Vontaze Burfict’s fall down the draft boards is unprecedented, however somewhat unsurprising

Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s highlight reel isn’t normal. Neither is the route he’s taken to the NFL the last few months. Rarely do you see a player of his caliber plummet down the draft boards much like Burfict.

Though one thing is clear about his fall from grace – Vontaze Burfict has no one to blame but himself.

Coming out of high school, Burfict was considered one of the best players to ever sign with Arizona State. As the number one  rated inside linebacker prospect by in 2009, Burfict was described as being “built like a DT but runs like a LB” who could “hit like a brick.” The recruiting website listed only his discipline in pursuit as a weakness. He seemed like a sure thing.

For the first two years of his career at Arizona State, that seemed to be the case. He started nine games his freshman year in 2009, recorded 69 tackles and was named Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. During his sophomore year in 2010 he played in 11 games and made 90 tackles, earning himself Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as becoming Arizona State’s first First Team All-American since Terrell Suggs. He seemed poised for a breakout junior season in 2011. Scouts tabbed him as a first round pick as college football fans began to realize his potential. Sporting News dubbed him “The Meanest Man in College Football.” He was no longer just the guy in the maroon number seven jersey menacingly pointing at USC quarterback Matt Barkley. He was a rising star and the next sure thing.

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Burfict’s fiery attitude was always a concern while at Arizona State

Unfortunately, character issues and a lackluster junior season severely hurt Burfict’s draft stock. He made only 69 tackles, matching the total of his freshman season while starting in three more games. He was inconsistent; some even say he lacked effort. He was involved in a locker room altercation with a teammate during the preseason and even blamed his poor play on his coaches.

Despite it all, it seemed as though the issues and concerns that haunted Burfict last season would not be anything a good showing at the NFL Combine couldn’t fix.

What resulted, however, was the exact opposite. Burfict clocked a horrendous 5.09 seconds in the 40-yard dash, good for dead last amongst all linebackers at the combine. Even some defensive tackle prospects like Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy, Penn State’s Devon Still and Memphis’ Dontari Poe, beat Vontaze Burfict’s 40-yard dash time. He was second to last in the vertical jump and last in the broad jump, providing results that came nowhere near mimicking the potential that Burfict showed while at Arizona State.

Whoever decides to take him on draft day will be selecting a high risk, high reward player with the hopes that he can improve his character and find the form he had during his sophomore season. If he pans out the way most originally believed he was going to, Burfict will almost certainly be a perennial Pro Bowler and one of the most, if not the most, feared defenders in the NFL. As long as he gets his head out of the clouds and his feet back on the ground, the sky is the limit for him.

If Vontaze Burfict is not able to overcome his character issues however, issues that can inevitably derail a potentially illustrious NFL career, then the league and its fan base will have lost out on a superstar.

Unlike Burfict’s current status, that is a sure thing.

Troy Weller is a junior majoring in Communications. To contact him, e-mail: