What could have been... (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
January 2nd, 2012
April 28th, 2012
A series of thunderous claps is heard outside Sun Devil Stadium at 1:21am. Out of a bright flash, a DeLorean skids across the pavement. After a nervous few moments, the driver-side door lifts open and a frazzled older man with crazy white hair emerges.
"Great Scott! Can you believe it?," he yells. "Vontaze is a path to disaster! And to Cincinnati! We have to go back...back to stop this madness."
Upon entering the vehicle, the time circuits receive their 1.21 gigawatts and in a flash, it's back to...
January 1st, 2012
Through a series of wacky, humorous and tense events (somehow involving Libyans that would take about two hours to recount in full), Burfict decides to stay at Arizona State University and not enter the draft. Thus begins an alternate reality of events...
January 12th, 2012
Burfict's decision is immediately put to the test after he is suspended from the team by new head coach Todd Graham. This comes a mere eight days after Graham suspended another highly talented defender, Junior Onyeali.
"Vontaze has all the talent in the world, but as of now, he does not meet the high standards that are expected of a Sun Devil. We have set forth some conditions for him to meet for reinstatement to this football team, and we will provide him with the resources to do so. The rest will be up to him," says Graham.
January 14th, 2012
Rumors begin to circulate in earnest that Burfict is revisiting the idea of enterting the NFL Draft, with the deadline for underclassmen coming on January 15th. After a long discussion with fellow Sun Devil linebacker Brandon Magee, Burfict elects to stay at ASU.
March 10th, 2012
After nearly two months of diligent work, and support from his teammates and coaches, Burfict is reinstated.
Said inside linebacker coach Ron West, "We are obviously very please by the progress this young man has made, and we are really excited to see what he can do when spring ball begins next week."
March 31st, 2012
After the team's first scrimmage, the reviews are glowing. Burfict is a one-man wrecking crew in the team's new aggressive defensive scheme. He makes three tackles for loss, two sacks and crushes tight end Darwin Rodgers on a (legal) hit that energized the entire defense.
April 21st, 2012
In front of 5,142 fans, Burfict shows off his immense talent in the spring game with several crushing tackles and highlight reel-worthy plays, but also shows that some habits die hard. After James Morrison is stuffed on a fourth down run, Burfict hits him after the whistle and is flagged for a personal foul. This draws the ire of Graham, but after a very impressive spring, the progress is encouraging.
July 16th, 2012
A feature in the new issue of ESPN The Magazine highlights Burfict's transformation from entitled loaf to dedicated worker and team player. Burfict credits Graham, Coaches Ron West and Paul Randolph and his teammates Alden Darby and Magee for being instrumental.
"They showed me that talent alone is not enough. I want to be the best linebacker in the nation, and I know what I have to do to make that happen," says Burfict.
September 1st, 2012
In ASU's season opener, Burfict is electric. In just a one half of play, he makes eight tackles and notches two sacks, including one that put NAU's starting quarterback Cary Grossart out of the game. However, there are still doubters, as, like last year, dominating an FCS team is not overly impressive.
September 15th, 2012
After a solid day in the team's Week 2 win over Illinois, Burfict regresses against Missouri. Appearing rattled by the raucous Tiger fans, he commits two costly penalties, both resulting in first downs. The national media is quick to dub him "same ol' Vontaze".
September 29th, 2012
Another lackluster performance against Utah at home has ASU at 2-2 coming into their road game against Cal. With both his season and the team's at a cross-roads, Burfict delivers in a major way.
He is a beast, flying all over the field making 16 tackles and two sacks. He makes a game-saving play when he knocks away a fourth down pass intended to tight end Spencer Hagan.
October 1st, 2012
For his performance against Cal, Burfict is named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.
October 18th, 2012
On a major stage, facing No. 4 Oregon, Burfict is dominant. In a losing effort, Burfict makes 14 tackles, including an astounding six for loss. His speed in chasing down the Ducks' speedy ballcarriers catches the notice of everyone involved, and one of his tackles for loss makes the SportsCenter Top 10.
October 22nd, 2012
It's quite an eventful day. Burfict collects his second Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week award and also is named as a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award.
November 9th, 2012
On the eve of their game against ASU, USC quarterback and Heisman front runner Matt Barkley is far more complimentary of Burfict than he was a year ago.
"I wrote him off last year, but I won't make that mistake again. The way he is playing, he is one of the top defensive players in the conference, if not the country. As an offense, you absolutely need to account for him on every play, especially in the creative ways they are using him."
November 10th, 2012
Against the No. 1 team in the nation, Burfict puts on a performance for the ages in ASU's close 24-21 loss to the Trojans. He nearly single-handedly shuts down the USC run game and makes a sack. His play forces the the Trojans to double-team him, allowing Onyeali to collect a career-best four sacks.
November 23, 2012
Another game, another huge performance from Burfict. Already with 14 tackles, he crushes Ka'Deem Carey late in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble that is returned by Chris Young for the game--Territorial Cup--clinching touchdown.
November 26th, 2012
Burfict is named a Butkus Award finalist.
December 22nd, 2012
A year after an embarrassing performance in last year's game, Burfict makes good in the 2012 Maaco Bowl. Although ASU again falls short against Boise State, Burfict's 17 tackles effort helps keep it close.
February 28th, 2013
NFL Network's Mike Mayock lists Burfict as one of the top performers at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. He impresses scouts with a 4.61 40-yard dash, great work in the agility drills and humble yet confident interviews.
April 25th, 2013
Burfict is drafted with the 13th overall pick by the Chicago Bears.
April 26th, 2013
In his introductory press conference with the Chicago media, Burfict credits his turnaround to the discipline of Graham and the support of his teammates.
"I wouldn't be here today if I had given up and not fought through everything. I overcame a lot just to get to ASU, and even more to get to the NFL. My teammates were amazing and I have to give the credit to Coach Graham, Coach West and everyone who helped me realize what it takes to be the best player and teammate I can be."
February 17th, 2027
After a stellar 15-year career--including seven Pro Bowls--with the Bears and Chargers, Burfict retires from the NFL.
With the present and future saved, the DeLorean is hit by a train and destroyed. But it's a happy ending nonetheless.
Follow me on Twitter @BDenny29 for the latest ASU updates.