AFI once sang that "nothing can erase the damage done". For Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, this truth has taken him from a pre-season lock as a first round NFL pick into very real danger that he may not even hear his name called during next week's draft.
A disappointing junior season, followed by a terrible performance at the Scouting Combine, followed by a not-much-better showing at ASU's Pro Day has resulted in the recent revelation that he has yet to meet with a single NFL team. With but nine days to go before next Thursday's draft, this is nearly a death blow.
However, all is not lost. In a league that routinely grants second, third and fourth chances, Burfict can still rally and get back on (a more difficult) track to his once promising football future. Granted, it's an absurd notion to think his value can become what it once was, but at the worst, he can begin to make an effort to stop the free fall.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. It will take a lot of work and a degree of dedication he has yet to show, but here are seven steps he should immediately undertake to ensure that his football future damaged beyond repair.
1) Call up Tony Dungy
If you're a troubled football player looking for a path to redemption, your first move should be to call the former Super Bowl-winning coach.
Since his retirement from coaching, Dungy has been a very active in community service. As a man of devout faith, he has given back in numerous charitable capacities and has also been an active mentor for troubled youth. His highest profile case in that regard was his work with Michael Vick, which began when Vick was incarcerated for his role in a dog fighting ring.
Working with Dungy, Vick began the long road back. As one of the most respected men in the NFL, Dungy became a powerful advocate for Vick, and was instrumental in landing Vick a contract with the Eagles.
The nation and the NFL love redemption stories, and Burfict is in position to be the next one. If he is sincere in turning his situation around, Burfict should follow Vick's lead and call Dungy.
2) Take full responsibility
Prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, Burfict conducted an interview with the assembled media. This was something of an event, as while at ASU, Burfict was shielded from the media and did not do interviews.
The end result of his Combine interview was a disaster.
In it, he passed the blame for his junior year troubles onto the coaching staff. "The coaches kind of messed me up. I didn't know if I would start a game or be benched. It hurt me, but I tried to fight through it." He fell back on the old "I was misunderstood" excuse, and still maintained that he was the "best linebacker" in the draft, in spite of reality.
It bears repeating that this is a very forgiving culture...IF you admit fault and take remedial action. Passing all the blame onto others only digs that hole deeper.
Burfict needs to find a major forum, perhaps The Dan Patrick Show or one of ESPN's many shows, and do an interview where he takes 100% of the blame, vows to learn from it, be a better person and so on. Until that happens, he will be stuck with the "immature" tag.
3) Conduct a media pro day
So NFL teams are not bringing Burfict in for a workout? OK, hold one for the media.
Burfict's embarrassing showing at the Combine has been well documented, and his work at ASU's Pro Day was only marginally better. However, he showed a nice improvement in his 40-yard dash time at Brock Osweiler's Pro Day, and in each subsequent workout, he appeared to be in better shape.
Assuming he has been working incredibly hard since Osweiler's workout, he should have made further improvements over the last 18 days. He should hold a workout for media outlets within the next week to show off a hopefully improved 40 time, bench press result and agility drill work.
NFL teams may not want him to come to their facility, but they certainly watch NFL Network and SportsCenter.
4) Embrace the underdog role
The reports suggesting the Burfict repeatedly acting in an entitled manner at ASU are numerous, and that was confirmed when Burfict proclaimed himself the "best linebacker in the draft" at the Combine. He needs to quickly rid himself of that notion and realize his is going to take the long road to an NFL starting lineup.
That starts with a willingness and desire to do whatever it takes to make a roster, and the first step in that direction starts with special teams. Burfict should make it very clear that he is eager to prove himself on the coverage and blocking units and that he expects nothing to be handed to him.
5) Anger management counseling
Anyone who watched ASU over Burfict's three years saw an ultra-talented player who had little to no control over his on-field emotions. That resulted in a staggering 17 personal foul penalties during his 35 games as a Sun Devil.
While some of the blame falls upon the coaching staff, it ultimately was Burfict's responsibility to play in a ferocious--yet legal--manner.
Even if it is merely for show, undertaking counseling to deal with his anger and maturity issues may help a team think that he may, just may, be taking steps to address this legitimate issue.
6) Give back to the community
PR 101 tells us that one of the first steps in repairing any image problem is charitable work, and Burfict should jump on this opportunity.
For his time at ASU, Burfict was an almost impersonable and menacing figure. With no media interaction, the fans and community never got to know the man behind the helmet, leaving his frustrating on-field play as the only means of "getting to know" him. This image led to parody Twitter accounts, and when he finally created a real account, he was so stricken with negativity from other users, it was deleted after one day.
Spending time working with kids will certainly seem transparent at first, but every redemption story has a beginning. With the current ASU team making weekly visits to area schools, perhaps he could go along.
Man of his former teammates speak glowingly about Burfict the person, and the only way people, and NFL decision-makers, will get to know that side is with outreach initiated by Burfict.
7) Mount a Heisman-like campaign
Each year, Heisman voters receive packages from the schools of leading candidates, extolling the virtues of their player.
At this point, doing something similar to all 32 teams couldn't hurt. After all, Burfict had some sensational moments during his career, and while many teams have written him off, a sincere reminder of his potential is worth a try.
Even though teams have done thorough filmwork on him, sending a highlight DVD and a personal letter written by Burfict would be a good start. While the most likely destination for that package will be 32 different trash cans, the improbable chance that it may solicit a second thought from a personnel executive is certainly worth the price of postage.
David J. McGlothlin contributed to this article
Follow me on Twitter @BDenny29 for the latest on ASU football