If you are a fan of college athletics I would encourage you to go see the new movie “Greater.” The movie should be seen by any athlete, coach, fan, athletic administrator, or anyone that enjoys a great true story.
The story of Brandon Burlsworth is one of the most amazing in college football history. He walked on at Arkansas in 1994 after having zero Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) scholarship offers and eventually became a team captain and two-time ALL-SEC pick.
Brandon had entered high school early, so he graduated at 17 years old and was still growing. When he got to Arkansas as a walk-on, he knew that he had to put everything he had into it and more. Because he was not a scholarship athlete he had to pay for school his first year at Arkansas. He promised his mother that he would get a scholarship for his remaining years. He was forced to redshirt his freshman year which made it that much more difficult to earn the scholarship he so desired. All the odds were against him. However, with his perseverance, drive, and work ethic he was able to impress the coaching staff enough to earn that scholarship he so desired.
His desire and work ethic was not only on the football field, but it was the same in the classroom and life. Brandon was the first football player in Arkansas Razorback history to complete a master’s degree before playing his final game. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the NFL draft. Tragically, at the age of 22, 10 days after the draft, he was killed in a car accident on April 28, 1999 while on his way home from the University of Arkansas to attend church with his mom.
Prior to his death he had already planned to help under privileged children and the Burlsworth family established the Burlsworth Foundation in his honor. His foundation helps many under privileged children to this day. They have developed programs such as the Eyes of a Champion, Burls Kids, Football Camp, Burlsworth Trophy, Burlsworrth Character Award, the University of Arkansas Burlsworth scholarships, State Championship Awards, and the Brandon Burlsworth Award.
I urge you to go see the movie and learn more about his story as the number one best walk-on in college football history. Also, visit the Burlsworth Foundation website to read more about all the wonderful things this organization does in his honor. Do it the Burls way!
By Dr. Bret Simmermacher
Dr. Simmermacher is the Chair of Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org