Top Stories of 2013: No. 3, Lord Burfict... Rise

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

We're now looking at the top three stories of the 2013 season, talking about a player that became the face of Cincinnati's defense.

Whenever Vontaze Burfict steps onto the field for the first defensive play of any game, the Imperial March plays somewhere. It has to. A conqueror not unlike Atilla the Hun, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or Emperor Palpatine, when Vontaze Burfict desires something, he takes it. Whether it's an open-field tackle (with no one else to support him), a fumble return for a touchdown, a quarterback sack, Burfict is a conqueror of opposing offenses.

One could argue that Burfict had already risen entering this season, amassing 174 tackles as an undrafted rookie last year. He became more than a tackling machine this year. Burfict became the image of Cincinnati's defense. The attitude, the anger, hunger, maybe prodded a little from James Harrison, but clearly a one-man show of domination.

In only his second season, Burfict was voted into the '14 Pro Bowl. More remarkable is the path he took to reach it.

"I got in through the back door. I worked so hard. I came in undrafted. I've had to come and work ever since I've been in here," said Burfict after learning that he's going to the Prob Bowl. "I've learned so much about the NFL and learned so much about the game. Coach Zimmer and Paul Guenther stay on my back and just get me ready for each game and I've got a lot of praise to my coaches and teammates."

It was an emotional moment for him. He made it, the pinnacle of individual achievement. However, the moment that he made the '12 squad remains his top moment.

"The roster was the biggest one for me. Just coming in undrafted, fighting for a spot," Burfict said. "That one brought a little more tears to my eyes because I had people saying bad things about me when I was coming out to the NFL. A lot of people thought I was a bad guy. I just had to come in and stay focused and stay straight away."

Geno Atkins may have the love of Bengals fans, but Burfict has become the fan's champion.

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