What NFL Scouts Can Learn from Vontaze Burfict's Rookie Success

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IOctober 11, 2012

Aug 23, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) prays before the pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL—something NFL scouts thought was highly improbable leading up to the draft and beyond. 

Burfict went undrafted after showing up to the scouting combine in terrible shape and reportedly bombing many of his interviews.

Combined with his lack of discipline both on and off the field in college (Scouts Inc. reports he racked up 17 personal fouls in 35 games at ASU, and he reportedly failed the mandatory drug test at the combine), teams weren't willing to risk a draft pick on him. 

Burfict even reportedly had an incident in his own locker room where he punched one of his own teammates, according to the Arizona Republic

According to CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, one scout said:

I wouldn't touch him. He does have some talent, but he is so undisciplined on and off the field. The guy is completely out of control. There's no way you could trust him. I can't believe they (ASU coaching staff) didn't cut him loose.

Head coach Marvin Lewis took a chance on the undrafted free agent, bringing him into training camp to see if there was any way Burfict could cast off the stigma that hung over the young man like a disease.

So far, things are looking good for both parties involved. 

Burfict not only made the team, which was impressive all by itself, but he is now the team's starting weakside linebacker after Thomas Howard went down with a devastating ACL injury in Week 2.

For the season, Burfict has tallied 25 tackles (13 solo) and one sack. 

The changes it took for Burfict to make it to this point can't be understated, both on and off the field. But according to Burfict, at least some of his changes have been facilitated by Lewis. He recently gave an interview to SportsRadioInterviews.com's Greg Gagnon, saying:

It’s been a good journey, since I’ve been under Marvin Lewis’ wing. He took me in and he coaches me how I need to be coached. If I mess up twice on one play that he already told me about, he gets to me. He starts yelling at me. But that’s what I need. … I love being under his wing because he talks to me like I’m a grown man and he understands you’re not supposed to always yell at a player. Sometimes I need to be yelled at.

Sometimes, all it takes is for the right leader to turn a troubled young man's life into something worth living. 

Lewis has given Burfict just what he needed to go from being an NFL pariah to someone who is proving all his detractors wrong—not that they were wrong in the first place, mind you. 

The moral of the story is this: Not all bad apples are forever tainted. There is hope for every young athlete willing to keep fighting for his dream. 

Burfict's battle is far from over, but for now, it's clear that this young man is on the right path to changing his life—both on and off the field. 


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