Brandon Burlsworth probably does not ring a bell to most people, but for me it makes me grateful.
Based on a true story “Greater” tells the story of Brandon Burlsworth.
Brandon Burlsworth was the first all American Walk-on and the first to receive a scholarship for being a walk-on. Now you may ask what is a walk on?
A walk on is someone that was not good enough, they are basically an extra and help the real athletes work out.
Brandon was born September 20, 1976. He had a brother that was his father figure. Brandon’s brother “Marty” were 18 years apart and Marty was often confused as his father. Brandon’s father was an extreme alcoholic and was never really in his life. Sometimes he came to visit and Brandon would turn away.
Brandon was a very religious man who did not believe in cussing and refused alcohol. He only relied on his faith. He was often made fun of for his weight because he was always a “big boy.” Brandon was also very organized and OCD. Since Brandon was young he always dreamed of playing for Arkansas.
Brandon attended Harrison High School where he played football. In his middle school career, the coaches saw nothing in him and told him to play a different sport. One scene in the movie shows where a middle school coach yells at Brandon and called him horrible name. Who knew the high school coach would be watching. Ever since that day his High School coach supported him, and also held a bible study with him.
As Brandon continued to improve tremendously despite his weight he always remembered what coach told him, “Be the first one on the field and the last one off.” And that is exactly what he did. Because of his grades coach did not see much of a scholarship opportunity or a chance for him to attend Arkansas. Before the end of his high school career, he was offered a scholarship to Arkansas Tech. The whole family was so proud of him and coach told him to take it. That is when Brandon replied with,”Coach, you always told me to do what I wanted and not listen to what other people say or think. So that’s what I am gonna do.” Right then Brandon ripped the paper containing all of Arkansas techs information and swore he would only play for Arkansas.
The next day, Coach walked up to Brandon and told him that he had gotten Brandon an official visit to Arkansas. There him and his brother walked around the field and met the coach. Upon meeting the coach all the coach had to say was “Get bigger and maybe you can possibly be a walk on.” From that day forward until tryouts he ate as much as he could and gained around 80 pounds.
When the season was finally here, Brandon became a walk on. It took him a very long time to gain respect from any of his teammates. He was treated wrongfully by coaches because he a was walk on. All of this being said, Brandon was double majoring and did not get a scholarship to play. His mother believed in him so much that she took out a mortgage on her house in hopes next year he would get a scholarship. (which had never been done before)
Brandon was finally given a full ride to Arkansas and was the first EVER walk on to get a scholarship. In his senior year, Arkansas got a new coach. The new coach wanted to “re-build” the team but Brandon promised he would lead the team into a winning season. He roomed with 3 other guys that were his same class. Before the season began he rented a summer house and forced all 3 guys to come and he would wake them up at crazy times like at 3 am and drag them outside in the freezing weather to work out or work on plays. Brandon changed every single guys perspective on the game and made them all better people. At the end of the season almost all of the guys attended his high school coaches bible meeting. And everyone respected Brandon. One day during a major game, Brandon began losing his eye sight. As soon as the game ended he told coach and coached gave him a pair of glasses. (The only pair he could afford) This becoming his signature and what he was known by.
Brandon fell short of a victory but lead Arkansas the closest they had ever been in winning the series. Looking on the bright side, Brandon received the All American Award in 1998. Shortly after, Brandon would sign to be in the NFl on the Indianapolis Colts.
Sadly on April 28, 1999 Brandon was involved in a fatal car wreck that took his life. He was only 2 days away from signing the NFL draft. Arkansas kept Brandon’s locker untouched and it is displayed in the locker room as a reminder. His Number (#77) was retired and he was put into the Hall of Fame.
Upon his honor many foundations were created for Brandon.
Burls Kids- This allows under privileged children to attend Razorback or Colts football games.
Eye of the Champion- This allows children from grades Kindergarten to 12th grade to have access to eye care assistance and is partnered with Walmart and Sams
Football Camps- These camps allows children from grades 3rd-9th to learn the sport and takes place in Arkansas.
Memorial Scholarships- 18 students at the University of Arkansas receive $5,000 who are from small towns and are so called “over-achievers”
High School Football Award- Every high school coach in Arkansas will choose one player to nominate. The reward is a plague and the book “Through the eyes of the Champion, the Brandon Burlsworth story.” And it will also be presented at the Arkansas state football championship games.
The Burlsworth Trophy- This trophy is given yearly to the most outstanding Division/ FBS college football player who began he career as a walk on.
There are many other awards in honor of Brandon but those are just a few:
I will be honest and tell you that I had no interest in watching the movie. But after watching it, it made me realize as an athlete myself how to go about things and how to do the right thing. I would HIGHLY recommend that you watch this heart wrenching movie, because it will touch your heart. Please watch this incredible movie. It is so touching and everyone needs to see it.
Also a special thanks to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Burlsworth for helping make this article possible.