The biggest day of Vontaze Burfict's football life is at the NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 25.
It's not the day he thrusts 225 lbs. above his head 20-plus times or runs the 40-yard dash, it's the day his maturity undergoes an investigation. It's the day NFL scouts get to delve inside his mind to decipher whether or not he's "tough" enough to cut it in the league.
In today's NFL, the brains are just as important as the brawn.
At 6'3", 250 lbs., there's no question that Burfict has the physical makeup of an NFL linebacker. It's his mental fortitude that's in question.
Coming off an All-American season in 2010, Burfict had a year to forget in 2011. He gained a reputation as a ticking time bomb, one who couldn't control his emotions on the field and ultimately hurt his team.
Burfict reminds one of Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions. On the upside, both young men have all the physical prowess in the world. On the downside, both have gained a reputation that's not so favorable, being tagged as undisciplined and dirty. Many times their on-field aggressiveness has turned into stupidity.
Like Burfict, Suh had a marvelous 2010 season, winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Suh anchored the Lions defense and totaled 10 sacks. However, in 2011, while the Lions were a success, Suh was a disappointment. He ended up with more personal foul penalties than sacks and became infamous for "The Suh Stomp." He even made the Forbes poll for most disliked athletes.
In the public's eye, Suh's infectious smile quickly turned to a menacing grin overnight. His once respected character is now suspect. Suh is certainly not in good standing with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as he's become a marked man.
That's where Burfict comes into the equation. He has top-10 talent that combats a "Mr. Irrelevant" maturity level. The fact that Goodell has a short leash towards outlandish behavior because of players like Suh doesn't bode well for Burfict. While he certainly hasn't helped his own case, it's the precedent set by Suh that hurts the most.
Burfict's draft stock is rumored to plummet because of the current climate of the NFL. Before ever playing a snap in the NFL, the 21-year-old linebacker has two strikes against him. He's headed into the NFL's mental trenches at the NFL Scouting Combine trying to mend an already marred reputation.
Whether or not he makes it to the 2012 NFL draft in good standing remains to be seen.
Seeing a talent like his go to waste would be a shame.
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