A new movie scheduled to open in U.S. theaters Aug. 25 entitled "Greater" promises to be one that relays a true story of hope, inspiration and determination. Modeled after what happened in real life to Brandon Burlsworth, who was a college football walk-on for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, the movie reflects what happens when someone leans on faith to carry them through the challenges life throws their way.
Within the story of "Greater," all of the odds are stacked against Burlsworth, but he doesn't give up. One of the most endearing aspects of this film is Burlsworth's consistency in maintaining his grace with everyone, including his worse critics.
Burlsworth said he dreamed of playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but was told he wasn't good enough to play Division I ball. Undeterred, he took a risk and walked on to the team in 1994. Written off by fellow teammates and coaches, he displayed dogged determination in the face of staggering odds. The awkward kid who once was an embarrassment to his teammates and an annoyance to his coaches, ended up becoming the most respected player in the history of the program, changing the lives of all he touched.
Known for his thick black glasses and his resemblance to comedian Drew Carey, Burlsworth lived from Sept. 20, 1976 to April 28, 1999.
Burlsworth graduated from Harrison High School in 1994, where he was an All-State selection. After he redshirted his first year (1994), Burlsworth transformed his pudgy 300 pounds into a svelt 260 pounds, and over the next two years, built himself back up to a muscular 300-pound, Arkansas Razorbacks' 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. His efforts earned him 1st team All-SEC honors in 1997 and 1998, and he was selected for the 1998 College Football All-America Team. 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. Burlsworth played on two SEC Western Division championship Razorback football teams (1995, 1998).
He was selected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and the University of Arkansas Letterman's Association Hall of Honor in 2004.
Burlsworth graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. He was the first Razorback football player to complete a master's 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.
Shortly after his death, 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.
The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation was established in honor of the late Brandon Burlsworth. Based in Harrison, Ark., its mission is to help underprivileged children around the state.