Brandon Burlsworth

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Brandon Burlsworth
Brandon Burlsworth, Arkansas Razorbacks, official headshot.jpg
No. 77
Position: Guard
Personal information
Date of birth: (1976-09-20)September 20, 1976
Place of birth: Harrison, Arkansas
Date of death: April 28, 1999(1999-04-28) (aged 22)
Place of death: Alpena, Arkansas
Career information
College: Arkansas
NFL draft: 1999 / Round: 3 / Pick: 63
Career history
*Offseason member only (died in car accident)
Career NFL statistics
Games played: --
Games started: --
Fumble recoveries: --

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

Football career[edit]

Burlsworth graduated from Harrison High School in 1994, where he was an All-State selection, and was a recruited walk-on football player at the University of Arkansas, despite the fact that he had scholarship offers from some smaller universities. He redshirted his first year (1994), then earned a scholarship and a starting position at right guard on the offensive line in 1996. By his junior season in 1997, he was selected to be one of the team captains. Brandon earned 1st team All-SEC honors in 1997 and 1998, and was chosen as a Sporting News 1st team All-American, after the 1998 season. He was Arkansas' first All-American player since 1993, and their first player selected to a 1st 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 from the University of Arkansas with bachelors and master's degrees. Brandon was the first Razorback football player to complete a masters degree before playing in his final game. Shortly after graduating, he was selected in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

Brandon's jersey number, 77, was permanently retired in a ceremony at Arkansas' first home game of the 1999 season. It is only the second number ever retired by the University of Arkansas. Burlsworth's locker in the Razorback locker room is encased in glass, preserved for future players and fans, in his honor. cc Brandon was elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and the University of Arkansas Letterman's Association Hall of Honor in 2004.[3]

In 2013, Bleacher Report named Brandon the #1 Greatest Walk-On of the BCS Era.[4]


Eleven days after being drafted, he was killed in a car accident near Alpena, Arkansas, on his way back to his hometown of Harrison after a workout in Fayetteville.[5] Burlsworth was buried on May 2, 1999, in Gass Cemetery in Omaha, Arkansas.[6]


  • Houston Nutt, Arkansas Razorback Head Coach at the time, started the saying, "Do it the Burls Way", a saying that means do it the right way, even when no one is looking.
  • His jersey #77 is retired at Arkansas and his locker is enclosed in a glass case in the Razorback locker room.[7] It is only the second retired jersey in school history.
  • The Harrison Youth Center in Harrison, Arkansas, was renamed the Brandon Burlsworth Youth Center in May 1999.
  • The Indianapolis Colts wore his initials, BB, on their helmets for the 1999 season.

Brandon Burlsworth Foundation[edit]

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 Brandon's signature black-framed glasses.[8]

Burls Kids[edit]

Today, through the "Burls Kids" program, the Burlsworth Foundation provides underprivileged youth 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 what Brandon wore on the field.[9]

Eyes of a Champion[edit]

In 2007, the "Eyes of a Champion" program was started. The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, in partnership with Walmart, provides eye care to thousands of pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students. Primarily they come from working families that cannot afford extras like eye care and do not qualify for state funded programs.[10] The Foundation is implementing a 5-year strategic plan to take the "Eyes of a Champion" program nationwide by 2015.[11]

Football Camps[edit]

The Brandon Burlsworth Football Camps are for youngsters going into 3rd grade through 9th 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 included Anthony Lucas, Clint Stoerner, Joe Dean Davenport, Madre Hill, Grant Garrett, Russ Brown, Barry Lunney Jr., Chad Abernathy, 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."[12]

Scholarship and Awards[edit]

Memorial Scholarships[edit]

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 Football Awards[edit]

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 the 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. An even greater honor, the Brandon Burlsworth Championship Award is presented at the Arkansas state football championships games to one player from each team for conduct above and beyond expectations.

State Championship Awards[edit]

Harrison (Arkansas) High School continues to award the Brandon Burlsworth Award to one male and female athlete who best exemplify the strength of character and work ethic known as "The Burls Way".[13]

Brandon Burlsworth Award[edit]

The Brandon Burlsworth Award is given out yearly to a male and female at Harrison High School and the University of Arkansas.

Burlsworth Trophy[edit]

Burlsworth Trophy - Sculpted By Raymond G. Gibby of Nobility Bronze, Pea Ridge AR

In 2010, the Burlsworth Trophy was created and named in his honor.[14] The award is given yearly to the most outstanding Division I FBS college football player who began their career as a walk-on.


The Foundation shares information about its mission, vision, activities and impact through a variety of channels.

Traditional Media[edit]

Traditional media include articles, pictures and videos that are available in the Media section of the Foundations' web site.

Social Media[edit]

The Foundation also engages the community, its friends, and its supporters through a variety of social media. These include its Facebook page, its Twitter handle (@Burlsworth_Fdn), its YouTube channel and its Pinterest pinboard.



In 2001, the book Eyes of a Champion, the Brandon Burlsworth Story written by Jeff Kinley was released.[15] The book contains a foreword by former University of Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles.


A screenplay titled Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story has been 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.[16]

David Hunt is directing and Gabe Mayhan is Director of Photography. 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.[17] Christopher Severio has been cast to play Brandon with Neal McDonough, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Parks and Nick Searcy in other lead roles.[18]

Filming began on Monday, May 6, 2013, in Fayetteville, Little Rock and Farmington, Arkansas, with a six-week production shoot. The producers anticipate that Greater could have a U.S. theatrical release in Fall 2014, although no distribution pacts have been announced.[19] IMDB indicates that Greater is slated for a November 2014 release.[18]


  1. ^ "About Brandon". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. 
  2. ^ "Inductees: Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame". Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Brandon Burlsworth". 
  4. ^ McDanal, Jonathan. "25 Greatest Walk-Ons of the BCS Era". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "Burlsworth killed in crash". Log Cabin Democrat. April 29, 1999. Retrieved August 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Brandon Vaughn Burlsworth". Find A Grave. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "Burlsworth Trophy | MrSEC". Malt Shovel Media. 
  8. ^ "the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation". Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  9. ^ "Burls Kids". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Eyes of a Champion". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "726 Harrison 04-27-2011 Part 3". HomeTownTelevision. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Football Camp". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. 
  13. ^ "Awards". Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Burlsworth Trophy". The Burlsworth Trophy. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  15. ^ Jeff Kinley. "Through the Eyes of a Champion: The Brandon Burlsworth Story". Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  16. ^ "NWA: ‘Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story’". About You Magazine. AY Magazine. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  17. ^ Brantley, Max. "Extras wanted for filming of Brandon Burlsworth movie at War Memorial Stadium". Arkansas Times. 
  18. ^ a b "Greater (2014)". IMDB. 
  19. ^ "GREATER - The Brandon Burlsworth Story". Retrieved 28 June 2013. 

External links[edit]