Humility Defines Burfict

Accolades are an inevitable byproduct of success. What separates the good from the great players is how they handle that prosperity, and their ability not to turn confidence into cockiness. Sun Devils' incoming freshman Vontaze Burfict is the nation's best middle linebacker in the 2009 class. His play on the field earned him his prominence, and his demeanor helped him sustain it.

Burfict, a 2009 five-star prospect by Scout.com and the 29th ranked overall player in any position, was named the Defensive Player of the year by GoldenStatePreps.com. He led Corona (Calif.) Centennial as a senior with 159 total tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He had ten or more tackles in 10 of 14 games that year, and helped the Huskies earn a No. 2 national ranking in 2008.

"I was never into the rankings and never really paid attention to them," said Burfict. "My mom always told me and my brother to stay humble and not be cocky. When all that recruiting attention was thrown at me I knew how to handle it. When people tell me how high I'm ranked I look at them (the rankings) and say ‘whatever.'

"My coaches told me my senior year that I need to show everybody why I am ranked so high, so I stepped it up."

Burfict is the most highly ranked football prospect ever to sign a letter of intent with the maroon and gold, yet he believes that when he arrives at fall practice he has to "start all over again…I haven't played in a while," he noted. "I don't want to say I'm rusty, but I know I need to get it back together a little. I have an All-Star game coming up on June 13th, but that game is not about showcasing myself. It's about getting prepared for Arizona State.

"There is still some stuff I need to work on."

The Centennial linebacker is good friends with former ASU wide receiver Terry Richardson, and by his own admission he has "always followed" the Sun Devil program. When he was first recruited his junior year by the maroon and gold, he indicated that he wasn't overly impressed with the school.

Needless to say that eventually ASU made quite the impact on Burfict, and the fact that his two former Husky line mates, Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee, along with ex- Centennial running back Ryan Bass, were doing well in their first year Tempe naturally helped his recruitment.

"I was more impressed with the school once I came out for a visit," Burfict recalled. "When I was out there I learned everything about the school and that's when I could really see myself playing for Arizona State and making the team better.

"Knowing I'm going to play next to Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee is very special. I had a lot of success with them and I'm very close to them. Playing with them now at the next level is awesome."

Despite the recruiting inroads that the Sun Devils made with the Southern California high school powerhouse, ASU's recruitment journey with Burfict was by no means a walk in the park. The linebacker committed to Pac-10 foe USC just weeks after Bass, Magee and Lyons officially signed with the Sun Devils.

"USC had a lot of linebackers that were going to leave," Burfict explained, "and I thought I could step in there and be just another linebacker playing in the NFL out of USC.

"My original recruiter at USC got fired and after I got a new recruiting coach it just seemed that the whole recruiting process hasn't been legit. Some of the stuff they were saying, it seemed that they were lying about and I realized that I don't want to go there, sit on the bench three years and waste my talent.

"I wanted to go to a place where I can play immediately."

Burfict stated that there were no guarantees made by ASU for a starting position, and that just like any player on the team he will have to earn his spot. "They told me that that if I play at ASU like I did in high school I will have a very good chance of starting," Burfict said. "So I have to earn my position."

Lyons and Magee never expressed disappointment in Burfict's decision to initially verbal to USC. "They always said that I need to do what's best for me," Burfict commented, "and that all they can do is show me a good time when I visited ASU, and they did. When they realized that there was a chance I was going to come to ASU they tried hard to get me to play with them."

Both the former Centennial linebackers were flourishing academically at ASU, and as time went on academics were ultimately the main factor that led Burfict to switch his pledge from the Trojans to the Sun Devils.

Burfict, just like Magee and Lyons, has had his fair share of academic struggles in high school. Thus, having a strong academic support system in college was just as important as any other aspect regarding the football program.

"When I took my visit to USC it seemed that all they were talking about was football, and there was no mention of academics like ASU," Burfict said. "Even in the recruiting process when I was committed to USC, they weren't on me to get my class work done. (ASU's recruiting coordinator and safeties coach) Coach Lubick was always checking up on me and showed that he really cared.

"USC wasn't talking about my classes not even once during the recruitment process."

"Coach Lubick does an outstanding job, he's very thorough," said Centennial head coach Matt Logan. "He stays on the player, stays on the coaches and making sure that academically things are getting done. He does a great job getting through to the players.

"I've been coaching for 12 years and he's one of the best recruiters I've come across."

Burfict's early football success as a high school freshman was in contrast to his achievements in the classroom. He was ruled academically ineligible for his sophomore year (did regain eligibility during the playoffs of that season) and faced an uphill battle to put himself in the position he is nowadays - being closer than ever to qualify for college admittance.

"I wasn't really high on football," Burfict recalled. "My freshman year was my first year of playing football and I was just playing it for fun. Then when I couldn't play, I knew I had to work harder to get my grades straight. Ever since the end of my sophomore year all my grades have been at least a 3.0. I was motivated to do well in school because that was the only way I could play football in high school and play at the next level too."

To say that he didn't miss a beat following his one-year hiatus in high school would be a gross understatement. As a junior, he paced Centennial with 130 tackles along with four sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

"I was very surprised to see him play like that after sitting out pretty much the entire sophomore year," coach Logan commented. "He definitely learned his lesson about being a student-athlete and making sure he does well in school. He just matured and realized what was really important.

"He saw the opportunities ahead for him and what was available for him if he got good grades and was a good player."

Burfict started his prep career under center. "When I also played linebacker I realized I like hitting people," he stated, "so I switched to that. I realized I was good playing that position and that's the position that I will play at the next level."

Logan defines his linebacker as a gifted athlete with superb instincts. "He can play almost every position on the field and he has a great passion and will to compete," he said. "Since grade school he was around our practices and he probably learned a lot watching his big brother and our team. I guess you could call him a ‘gym rat.'

On film Burfict is a ferocious hitter to say the least. During his letter of intent day press conference, Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson said of the linebacker: "When he hits you, it hurts. He's got that kind of attitude."

By his own admission Burfict is a reserved individual off the field, which obviously hasn't hurt his prowess on the gridiron. "When I strap that helmet on I'm in game mode," he remarked. "I'm a total different person."

As well as he keeps opponents unbalanced, Vontaze Burfict has successfully found his own poise between academics and football, as well as between fame and levelheadedness. It is a balance that has made the linebacker a bona fide star in high school and an extremely coveted college prospect.

Up until now, Corona Centennial greatly benefited from the linebacker's accomplishments.

The Sun Devil nation cannot wait to be the new beneficiaries of Vontaze Burfict's proficiency this fall.

Introducing Vontaze Burfict

High School/Junior College

Corona (Calif.) Centennial HS

Position

Linebacker

Height

6-3

Weight

240

Date of birth

9/24/90

Birthplace

Corona, Calif.

Nickname

"Tez."

Favorite TV show

" The First 48"

Favorite movie

"Hancock"

Favorite singer/band

"Lil' Wayne"

Favorite food

"Chitlins"

Favorite drink

"Fruit Punch Gatorade"

Favorite athlete

"Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis"

Favorite pro team

"Los Angeles Lakers"

Person you most admire

"My mother Lisa Williams and my brother Dashan Miller. My mom – I wouldn't be here without her. I didn't have a dad in my life, so my older brother was my role model and I pretty much looked up to him."

One thing most people don't know about me

"I'm a very quiet person and very friendly."

Why did you choose ASU?

"Education first and playing time second."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Playing in the NFL. If that doesn't work out I'd like to work in law enforcement."


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