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Vontaze Burfict leading crusade against bullying

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Despite his reputation on the field, Vontaze Burfict has a big heart and wants to help kids learn how to deal with bullying.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is an aggressive player on the football field. On more than one occasion, his actions have resulted in hefty fines from the NFL and, on one occasion, resulted in a three-game suspension. But, don’t call him a bully, because he doesn’t see himself that way and he’s not a fan of bullies.

“I don’t think bullying is even in my DNA,” Burfict told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I grew up where there were no bullies in my high school or elementary (school). I was actually one of the cool kids. There was one time I was walking home from school and I saw a kid getting beat up and I actually stopped it.”

It was the kind of experience that instilled a lifelong distaste for bullying in the then- young Burfict.

“In the middle of trying to stop it, the kids that were beating the kid up tried to fight me. I just told them, ‘I’m not here for that. I came to help this kid because it looked unfair,” Burfict said. “I don’t enjoy seeing bullies or anybody getting bullied. It just kind of touched my heart to see (news stories about bullying).”

For that reason, Burfict has made it his mission to help stop bullying. By setting up opportunities with his agent to speak around schools, he hopes to help children work through these problems. Bullying can be a crippling experience for a young child with no way of knowing about the coping mechanisms involved in dealing with bullies. The knowledge of what to do when confronted with that situation can prevent a lot of situations that could otherwise escalate into a crisis. That is exactly the message Burfict hopes to spread.

“You get help ASAP. There’s no way to retaliate. You stay away from, obviously, those people in the first place,” Burfict said of what he plans to tell kids about how to combat bullying. “If there’s a reason you’re getting bullied, you need to talk to your parents. Let them know. Talk to the principal. Talk to the teacher. Talk to security guards at the school. To make sure that you’re feeling safe for your own well-being. Before anything else counteracts and you’re doing something you regret or hurt other people.”

It is a message that, unfortunately, a lot of kids don’t get to hear and therefore don’t ever learn. However, Burfict has the power to help change that, and wants to do whatever he can to help.

“I feel like there are a lot of kids that get bullied and they aren’t sure how to respond to when they’re getting bullied,” Burfict said. “I just want to go talk to a couple of schools, even in different states to try to figure out how to prevent from getting bullied and what to do if you are getting bullied.”

Despite his reputation, there is no denying Burfict has a big heart. Even on the field, his play —which many describe as reckless— is in an effort to do something great, rather than there being any sort of malicious intent against his fellow players. It’s great to see this kind of story regarding the Bengals’ top linebacker and hopefully Burfict can make the most of his opportunity to help prevent bullying.