Since 2010, the Burlsworth Trophy has been given to the most outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on, named in honor of former Arkansas offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth.
Now, Burlsworth’s story also will become known on the big screen, in the form of “Greater,” a feature film based on the life of the late Burlsworth, considered by many to be the greatest walk-on in college football history. The film hits theaters Friday.
After fielding zero Division I scholarship offers, Brandon Burlsworth walked on at Arkansas in 1994 and eventually earned a scholarship, became team captain, a two-time All-SEC selection and was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the 63rd overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft.
Burlsworth died in an automobile accident 11 days after the draft. His memory, and the unlikely journey he made from walk-on to college football star, has lived on. The film, which stars Chris Severio as Burlsworth, showcases the work ethic, toughness and perseverance that drove Burlsworth to his success.
The process of creating the film was a long one, spanning more than a decade, said Marty Burlsworth, Brandon’s older brother. The family previously was approached about doing a film on Brandon, but couldn’t get assurances that the directors wouldn’t take more creative liberties than the family was comfortable with. The Burlsworths wanted to be sure that Brandon’s story was told in as real and truthful a manner as possible.
Brian Reindl, an executive producer and writer for the film, approached the family 11 years ago. He had no experience but was willing to learn and had the desire, Marty said. Most importantly, he was comfortable with the family having plenty of input.
“Brian did a tremendous job,” Marty said. “He has great organizational skills and he has that attitude that Brandon always had. People would doubt you, but that didn’t matter. I think it kind of fueled him and he really got it done.”
As the Burlsworth Trophy has become a success and now the film is being released, Marty said he and the Burlsworth family are thrilled to see Brandon’s story continue to be told nationally.
“I’m very proud of that,” Marty said. “You get anxious because it’s been a work in progress for 11 years, but if it came out much earlier than this we wouldn’t have come close to having the same product, and ultimately what I believe will be the same success that we’re anticipating. I know Brandon would be very happy about that and humbled by that.
“Hopefully around the country, people will want to keep his message out there because it’s a great message and a great learning experience for all of us, and it’s especially a great message for kids to hear.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and the current Razorbacks recently had a private screening and enjoyed the film.
You can find more information on the film, the official trailer, theaters where it will play and more on the film's official website.