upbeat about Armonii Burden | Richmond Free Press

Armonii Burden would love to be known as the second-best defensive player to come out of Lafayette High School in Williamsburg.

The incomparable Lawrence Taylor, of course, is No. 1 on this list.

Taylor (Lafayette class of 1977) is perhaps the most dominant linebacker in NFL history with the New York Giants.

Burden (Lafayette class of 2018), an offensive defensive end from Virginia Union University, will enter his junior season as a preseason All-CIAA selection.

Wearing the No. 5 jersey (an unusual number for a lineman), Burden had six sacks among his 30 tackles in 2021 in his first season as a Panther after transferring from Hampton University.

When Burden wasn’t firing the QB, he was applying relentless pressure. Rival signal callers got to know No. 5 usually under unpleasant circumstances.

“Armonii plays with a lot of tenacity and he knows how to get to quarterback,” coach Alvin Parker said. “He’s also very good against the run.”

Under defensive coordinator Ed Pointer (Parker’s former VUU teammate), the Panthers are hoping to fix an inconsistent defense from a season ago.

VUU gave up 42 points to Hampton, 51 to Valdosta and 31 in a win over Chowan. Overall, the Panthers allowed 22 points and 360 yards per game.

The team was 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the CIAA North, second to Bowie State.

“We have to focus on stopping the race,” Burden said. “We need to tackle gangs more and be disciplined.”

VUU opens Thursday, September 1 against invading University of Virginia Lynchburg in the annual Willard Bailey Classic. Kick-off will be at 7 p.m. at Hovey Stadium/Lanier Field.

Even the iconic Taylor, who helped the Giants win two Super Bowl titles, would be impressed with his alma mater’s play in recent fall.

In Burden’s sophomore, junior and senior years combined, the Rams were 37-4, reaching the state semifinals twice. Taylor did what he could to help.

“Mr. Taylor came to the school to give us motivational speeches once we got to the United States,” Burden said.

“He pulled me aside and told me to be the ‘tough guy’, to go out there with a ‘high engine’.”

Football talent runs in the family.

Burden’s brother, Kapri Doucet, played at Bruton High in Williamsburg, and later at the University of Oklahoma and Hampton.

Burden is sometimes asked about the “double i’s” to complete his first name.

“My mother is very creative, artistic,” he explained. “She wanted something different.”

At 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Burden isn’t always the tallest defensive lineman. But he may be the strongest.

He completely squatted a spine test, 635-pound barbell curl, leading among all Panthers in all weight classes.

“I’m very active in the weight room,” he said.

To put a 635-pound squat into perspective, that’s about 14 45-pound plates in all, or seven on each side of the bar.

Even Lawrence Taylor, in his heyday, could have conveyed this.

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