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Brandon Burlsworth
Brandon Burlsworth, Arkansas Razorbacks, official headshot.jpg
No. 77
Personal information
Born:(1976-09-20)September 20, 1976
Harrison, Arkansas, U.S.
Died:April 28, 1999(1999-04-28) (aged 22)
Alpena, Arkansas, U.S.
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:309 lb (140 kg)
Career information
High school:Harrison (AR)
NFL Draft:1999 / Round: 3 / Pick: 63
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards

Brandon Vaughn Burlsworth (September 20, 1976 – April 28, 1999) was an offensive lineman for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team from 1995 to 1998. He joined the team as a walk-on and eventually became an All-American.

Football career

Burlsworth graduated in 1994 from Harrison High School, where he was an All-State selection and volunteer walk-on football player to the University of Arkansas, despite having scholarship offers from smaller universities. After he redshirted his first year (1994), he transformed his pudgy 300 lb (140 kg) frame into a svelte 260 lb (120 kg), and, over the next two years, built himself back up to a muscular 300 lb (140 kg) offensive guard. By his sophomore season in 1996, he had earned a scholarship and a starting position at right guard on the offensive line.

Before his junior season in 1997, he was selected to be one of the team captains. Burlsworth's efforts earned him first-team All-SEC honors in 1997 and 1998, and he was selected for the 1998 College Football All-America Team. He was Arkansas's first All-American player since 1993 and their first player selected to a first-team squad since 1989. He was also named to the All-SEC Academic Honor Roll every year from 1995–1998.[1] Burlsworth played on two SEC Western Division championship Razorback football teams (1995, 1998).[2]

Burlsworth graduated in 1998 from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in business administration. The following year, he completed an MBA. He was the first Razorback football player to complete a master's degree before playing in his final game, the 1999 Citrus Bowl.[3]

After his career with the Razorbacks, Burlsworth was invited to the NFL combine. At the combine, Burlsworth topped all linemen with a 4.88 40-yard dash. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times, weighed 308 pounds, and measured slightly below 6 feet 4 inches.[4]

During the 1999 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Burlsworth with the 63rd pick in the third round.[5][6] After participating in a Colts post draft mini-camp, he impressed the team's then-offensive line coach Howard Mudd and was projected to be a starter for the Colts' 1999 season.[7]

Shortly after his death, Burlsworth's jersey number, 77, was permanently retired in a ceremony at Arkansas's first home game of the 1999 season. It is only the second number ever retired (the other is number 12, retired in honor of Clyde Scott) by the University of Arkansas.[8] Burlsworth's locker in the Razorback locker room is encased in glass, preserved for future players and fans in his honor. Burlsworth was elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and the University of Arkansas Letterman's Association Hall of Honor in 2004.[9] In 2013, Bleacher Report named Burlsworth the #1 Greatest Walk-On player of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Era.[10]


Eleven days after being drafted, Burlsworth was killed in a car accident near Alpena, Arkansas, on April 28, 1999, on his way back to his hometown of Harrison after a workout in Fayetteville.[11][12] Burlsworth's vehicle clipped an oncoming 18-wheeler, swerved back into his lane, and then hit another tractor trailer head on. The stretch around Carrollton in which the crash occurred was not particularly rugged. A state police report said that, "for unknown reasons," Burlsworth's car drove left of the center line and hit the left front fender of a tractor trailer. After returning to its lane briefly, the car crossed the center line again and hit a second tractor trailer. Burlsworth was declared dead at the scene.[13] He was buried on May 2, 1999, in Gass Cemetery in Omaha, Arkansas.[14]


Brandon Burlsworth Foundation

After his death, family and friends established the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation in honor of his work ethic and Christian values. The Christian organization's mission is to support the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children who have limited opportunities. The foundation's logo prominently features Burlsworth's signature black-framed glasses.[19] The foundation makes its money via donations and the sale of Burlsworth merchandise. On the foundation's website, one can choose from books and movies about Brandon to shirts hats to raise money for their cause. [20]

Burls Kids

Today, through the "Burls Kids" program, the Burlsworth Foundation provides underprivileged youths with a chance to attend Razorback and Colts football games. Since 2000, the Foundation has bought 30 tickets to each Arkansas Razorbacks home football game. The tickets are distributed through Razorback Clubs across the state. The children are given an official "Burls Kid" T-shirt and replica glasses similar to those Brandon wore on the field.[21]

Eyes of a Champion

In 2007, the "Eyes of a Champion" program was started. The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, in partnership with Walmart/Sam's Optical Department and independent optometrists across Arkansas, provides eye care to thousands of pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students. Primarily, these students come from working families who cannot afford extras like eye care and do not qualify for state funded programs. Applications must be submitted by school nurses or counselors and are available in English, French, and Spanish.[22]

Football Camps

The Brandon Burlsworth Football Camps are for children going into third grade through ninth grade. They are held once each summer at F.S. Garrison Stadium in Harrison, Arkansas, and War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas. Children are given a chance to learn from former Razorbacks. Past participants include Anthony Lucas, Clint Stoerner, Joe Dean Davenport, Madre Hill, Grant Garrett, Russ Brown, Barry Lunney Jr., Chad Abernathy, Jeremiah Washburn, Michael Smith, Lucas Miller, and others. The campers learn football skills but, more importantly, they are taught throughout the day about character, attitude, morals, priorities, and the desire to do it "The Burls Way".[23]

Scholarship and awards

Each year the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation gives out several awards and scholarships at various school levels. Eighteen students at the University of Arkansas who are primarily from smaller towns and who are characterized as academic overachievers receive $5,000 scholarships. Additionally, a Razorback football player who began his career as a walk-on but then earned a football scholarship is honored as the year's Burlsworth Athletic Scholar. The students are selected by the University of Arkansas Scholarship Committee and are recognized in a ceremony in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

High school awards include the Brandon Burlsworth High School Football Awards. Every high school football coach in Arkansas has the opportunity to nominate one player from his team. Those players receive a plaque and a copy of "Through the Eyes of A Champion, the Brandon Burlsworth Story," autographed by Brandon's mother, Barbara Burlsworth.[citation needed]

The Brandon Burlsworth Championship Award is presented at the Arkansas state football championship games to one player from each team for conduct above and beyond expectations.[24] The Burlsworth Character Awards are a national award honoring character and sportsmanship in high school football. Awardees are announced in late spring following the fall football season.[25]

The Brandon Burlsworth Award is given out yearly to one male and one female athlete at Harrison High School and the University of Arkansas who best exemplify the strength of character and work ethic known as "The Burls Way".[26][27] In 2010, the Burlsworth Trophy was created and named in his honor.[28] The award is given yearly to the most outstanding Division I FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on.



In 2001, the book Through the Eyes of a Champion: The Brandon Burlsworth Story, written by Jeff Kinley, was released.[29] The book was praised for its authentic and inspirational portrayal of Brandon's story. The book contains a foreword by former University of Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles and was the inspiration for a movie (see below). The book was re-released in August 2016 as a tie-in with the movie, renamed Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story.


Main article: Greater (film)

A screenplay titled Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story was written based on the book. Brian Reindl, a former real estate investor and fellow University of Arkansas graduate, spent eight years working on the screenplay. A self-described "walk-on filmmaker", Reindl decided to finance and produce the film.[30]

David Hunt, who also helped Brian write the screenplay, directed the movie, and Gabe Mayhan was director of photography. The score for the film was by Stephen Raynor-Endelman with Andrea Von Foerster as the music supervisor. The production designer was Lucio Seixas, and the costume designer was Keri Lee Doris. Morgan Casting Company was hired to cast the film and began holding open casting calls in March 2013 in Fayetteville, Arkansas; Little Rock, Arkansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Canton, Mississippi.[31] The casting director was Stephanie Holbrook, C.S.A. The movie was produced by Brian Reindl with co-producer Tim Duff and executive producers Brian Reindl and Neal McDonough.

Filming began on Monday, May 6, 2013, in Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Farmington, Arkansas, with a six week production shoot. Greater originally had a U.S. theatrical release date scheduled for January 2016, which was later moved to summer 2016, starring Neal McDonough, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Parks, Nick Searcy, Quinton Aaron, M. C. Gainey, Fredric Lehne, Texas Battle, Wayne Duvall, and Christopher Severio as Brandon, as well as cameos by author Jeff Kinley and Brandon's brother, Marty Burlsworth.

On January 16, 2016, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, hosted an exclusive screening of Greater. John Randle and Aeneas Williams, both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, participated in an interactive roundtable discussion following the screening.[32]

The movie was originally scheduled for a release date of January 29, 2016.[33] However, on January 21, 2016, Hammond Entertainment, LLC announced that the release of Greater would be moved to summer 2016. The press release stated that the change was due to "[o]verwhelming positive response from screening audiences and the desire of a national theater chain to show it in more locations".[34]

The official general release date of August 26, 2016, was announced on Tuesday, August 16, 2016, via the movie's website and official Twitter account.[35][36] Northwest Arkansas television station Fox 24 (KFTA) ran a story with details about an advance screening which was held on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, at Malco Razorback 16 theater in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a question and answer session after the movie.[37]


  1. ^ "About Brandon". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Archived from the original on August 29, 2013.
  2. ^ "Inductees: Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame" Archived 2016-04-17 at the Wayback Machine. Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  3. ^ Winkeljohn, Matt (December 3, 2010). "BURLSWORTH TROPHY A WORTHY GOAL FOR BEDFORD". Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  4. ^ "Remembering Brandon Burlsworth". Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  5. ^ "1999 NFL Draft Listing". Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  6. ^ Hagood, Cindi. "About Brandon". Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  7. ^ "Twenty-one years later, Brandon Burlsworth's legacy endures for retired Indianapolis Colts Coach Mudd". Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  8. ^ Hall, Wally (September 15, 2016). "Retired jerseys a rare sight for Razorbacks". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  9. ^ "Brandon Burlsworth". Archived from the original on December 4, 2010.
  10. ^ McDanal, Jonathan. "25 Greatest Walk-Ons of the BCS Era". Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  11. ^ "Burlsworth killed in crash an 18 wheeler crossed the midline and the cars collided". Log Cabin Democrat. April 29, 1999. Archived from the original on August 30, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  12. ^ Hagood, Cindi. "About Brandon". Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  13. ^ . The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Florida), May 2, 1999, Sun. p. 1226.
  14. ^ "Brandon Vaughn Burlsworth". Find A Grave. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  15. ^ "Burlsworth Trophy". Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  16. ^ "About Brandon". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  17. ^ "Burlsworth Trophy | MrSEC". Malt Shovel Media. Archived from the original on June 20, 2013.
  18. ^ " - NFL - Colts pay tribute to Burlsworth". Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  19. ^ "the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation". Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  20. ^ "Donate/Shop". Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  21. ^ "Burls Kids". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Archived from the original on August 29, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  22. ^ "Eyes of a Champion". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  23. ^ "Football Camp". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Archived from the original on August 29, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  24. ^ "State Chapmpionship Awards". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  25. ^ "Burlsworth Character Award". Burlsworth Character Award. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  26. ^ "Awards". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Archived from the original on August 29, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  27. ^ "State Championship Awards". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  28. ^ "The Burlsworth Trophy". The Burlsworth Trophy. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  29. ^ Jeff Kinley. "Through the Eyes of a Champion: The Brandon Burlsworth Story". Archived from the original on February 19, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  30. ^ "NWA: 'Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story'". About You Magazine. AY Magazine. Archived from the original on September 6, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  31. ^ Brantley, Max (May 24, 2013). "Extras wanted for filming of Brandon Burlsworth movie at War Memorial Stadium". Arkansas Times.
  32. ^ "EXCLUSIVE SCREENING OF MOTION PICTURE "GREATER" TO TAKE PLACE AT HALL ON SATURDAY" (PDF). Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site. Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  33. ^ "Greater: In Theaters January 29". Greater: In Theaters January 29. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  35. ^ "Greater: In Theaters August 26". Greater the Movie. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  36. ^ "On August 26th, experience a story that will change the way you see the world. #GreaterTheMovie". Twitter. Greater the Movie. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  37. ^ "Sneak Peek of UA Football Player Biopic "Greater" at Malco Razorback". August 16, 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016.