Christian Burgdorf, Denver’s enigmatic captain, leading Pioneers back among lacrosse’s elite

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

Christian Burgdorf rose to the occasion. The University of Denver men’s lacrosse dominant defenseman displayed resilience when the team needed leadership and strength to come back from the shock of losing to Towson in the First Round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament as reigning national champions.

Returning for his senior season this year, Burgdorf was re-elected captain having been the only in his class to serve as a junior. There was an edge with Burgdorf’s duties to help this team return to excellence and compete for a national title once again.

“Christian is a great leader,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “Even though he was a junior captain last year, it was hard on him. We had a senior group that was great guys, but really lacked the leadership that we needed to get over the hump. We got through the year not as well as we wanted to obviously, but I think we all learned from that. I think the leadership through Christian, through Trevor [Baptiste] and through Connor [Cannizzaro] who really grew up, that has been the difference in us in comparing this year from last year.”

Burgdorf grew up in Westfield, New Jersey, among an athletic family he has two brothers and three sisters. His oldest brother Brendan was an All-American soccer player at Bucknell University. His younger brother Toby will play lacrosse for Providence College next fall.

Growing up a multi-sport athlete, Burgdorf balanced football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and even wrestling that only lasted the extent of a weekend because his family made fun of him for wearing a singlet, it wasn’t until some friends introduced him to lacrosse that he picked up the sport.

“Once the sports slowed down down I got into lacrosse from a group of friends that exposed me to it and I loved it,” Burgdorf said. “I practiced as much as I could, I watched as much as I could, I played as much as I could, I hung around with the guys as much as I could and learned as much as possible from them.”

Often called ‘Dorf,’ the towering 6-foot-3, 225-pound Burgdorf carries an immense physical presence on the field which he has mastered immaculately. While he plays his position as if it were second-nature, Burgdorf recalls and admits that his decision growing up came down to the required amount of physical exertion.

“Once I found out how much you had to run as a midfielder I started to play defense because it’s exhausting,” Burgdorf said. “It came easier, I didn’t have to run as much, that’s how I ended up there.”

Burgdorf thrived in his high school days receiving numerous accolades that only continued to amplify during his collegiate career. As a four-year starer for the Pioneers, Burgdorf is also a three-time First Team All-American (not including this season), United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) First Team All-American (2016), Tewaaraton Watch List nominee (2016)…the list goes on.

Burgdorf attributes his success to his high school coach, Pat Tuohy, who has since established a connection between Westfield High and DU.

“I always had high hopes. I think my high school coach Pat Tuohy did a great job giving me the confidence and teaching me as much as he could,” Burgdorf said. “We’ve got another Westfield guy Matt McIlroy and then three more coming in so he’s done an awesome job developing us as young players and young men. He definitely instilled the leadership qualities I have as well as the skill all in one.”

From the moment Burgdorf stepped on campus as a freshman, the coaching staff knew they had an impact player on their hands.

“Christian is a little bit of an enigma in that from the day he stepped on campus we already knew he was going to be great,” Tierney said. “On the first day of fall practice, we said, ‘We’ve got something special.’ For him to push Carson Cannon out who was our best defenseman at the time as a freshman and Christian, now playing the other team’s top attackman we knew we had something pretty special.”

The latter part of Burgdorf’s enigma is his personality; an infectious spirit with the gifted ability to direct.

“He’s always been like that on the field. The other side of him is; he’s kind of a goofball,” Tierney said. “What we learned throughout watching him develop as a young man is that he had the leadership ability on the field to be tough and serious, people respect him because he’s such a good player. Then off the field to lighten the mood a little bit, to be a friend, to be a mentor to the younger guys without it always being the hard guy captain. It’s rare to get a guy that can handle both of those.”

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