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Updated Jan 4, 2013 - 4:29 pm

NFL analyst on Vontaze Burfict: 'That kid is special'

Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) and strong safety Taylor Mays tackle Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce (30) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Keating)

To say former Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict has turned his career around would be an understatement.

Burfict, who spent three years in Tempe, went from wonderkind destined to be a top 10 draft pick to undrafted over the course of his collegiate career.

He landed with the Cincinnati Bengals and has since become a key part of one of the NFL's best defenses.

"Marvin really cultivated a relationship with Vontaze that Burfict really liked, and they kind of hit it off," CBS NFL sideline reporter and analyst Steve Tasker told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf Friday.

It's paid off big time, as Burfict ultimately led the team with 127 tackles to go along with one sack. The undisciplined play the linebacker became known for at ASU a thing of the past, the 22-year-old is now earning a reputation as being an excellent professional football player.

"Vontaze wanted a fresh start and Marvin was willing to give it to him and take him for his word," Tasker said. "And Vontaze has lived up to his side of it."

It's a nice story for a player who everyone always believed had enough talent to be great, but possibly lacked the drive and dedication to fulfill his potential. Though he is just one year into his NFL career, it appears Burfict is well on his way to becoming the player many thought he'd ultimately be.

"Marvin Lewis, sitting around a table with me in a production meeting, looked at me and the guys I was with and said, 'Vontaze Burfict may be one of the top three guys I have ever been around on the defensive side of the football, ever,'" Tasker added.

Lewis was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens before taking over in Cincinnati, and has coached the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, among others.

"That kid is special, and Marvin may be one of the few guys -- and obviously the only head coach in the NFL -- who took the time to cultivate a relationship with the guy before he got him after the draft, and it's paying dividends for him," Tasker said.

Burfict's Bengals will be playing the Houston Texans Saturday in an AFC Wild Card playoff game.


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