State of the Hogs: Burlsworth Camps
Several years ago I worked in a stop in Harrison on the way to the Norfork River. I'm not sure if the original motivation for the trip was fishing or the visit at the soccer complex where the Brandon Burlsworth Football Camp took place.
As much as I like fishing, those who know me will call guilty on the first thought. But the football camp was the highlight and that was even after some big brown trout were landed later in the day.
Unless you've ever seen kids who really can't afford a camp in their first brush with a Razorback player, you can't imagine the smiles that morning in Harrison.
Grant Garrett played beside the late Brandon Burlsworth for four years on the Arkansas offensive line, and along with more than one dozen former Razorbacks, returns to the two days of camps, June 6 in Harrison and June 7 in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Among the other former players scheduled to attend at least one of the camps: Chad Abernathy, Jason Allen, David Bazzel, Richie Butler, Russ Brown, Chris Chalmers, Nathan Cole, Joe Dean Davenport, Ryan Hale, Al Heringer, Bo Lacy, Barry Lunney, Benji Mahan, Oscar Malone, Caleb Miller, Corey Nichols, Nathan Norman, Brennan O'Donahoe, Zac Painter, Clint Stoerner and Jeremiah Washburn.
Garrett often makes both camps, but business might keep him around Hot Springs for the Harrison date this year. He's running three companies now and they've taken more and more of his time.
"I didn't make many football games the past few years," he said. "About the time one business is doing fine on its own, my dad starts another one and here we go again. I still have tickets and make sure they get used, but I'm not in my seats much anymore."
The Little Rock camp is on his agenda with hopes for the Harrison trip, too. He tries not to miss either one.
"So many of the guys I played with come back so I want to be there if I can," he said. "Of course, you can't beat what you see in all of those kids and then there's the purpose, to honor Brandon. He was as good a person as there ever was, just pure good.
"I played beside him all those years. You learn so much about how to live your life day by day, the consistency he had in everything he did. That's what he was all about."
Garrett was the center, Burlsworth the All-America right guard on those Arkansas teams that helped inspire the expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a breakout performance in 1998.
Burlsworth was the first UA All-America since 1989. He died in a car wreck that spring just after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.
"Brandon would still be playing," Garrett said. "He would have been an Anthony Munoz type, an 18-year guy. The only thing that would have stopped him would have been an injury, a significant injury. He would have been a great professional.
"What you had in Brandon is a man who studied it and then did it perfect. His technique and steps were exactly right. He made no mistakes. The key in offensive line play is to do it the same way every time, consistency. That's what made him so great.
"He took that to the next level and was like that in everything he did. He walked to the cafeteria on the same route, did everything the same day by day.
"The thing about football players, you have to trust the man beside you to be consistent. You had the ultimate trust in Brandon."
Garrett is thankful for Marty Burlsworth, Brandon's older brother. Marty has kept Brandon's name alive with the foundation that does so much for kids that don't have funds to go to Razorback games or the camps.
"I'm proud of what Marty has done to keep Brandon out there like this," Garrett said. "It makes all of us feel good. We are just glad to help." Of course, they get back as much as they give.
"I can remember when I was very young my aunt took me to a Razorback football Red-White game in Hot Springs," Garrett said. "We stopped on the way and I bought a notebook and a pen. I got all of the player autographs after the game. I can remember it was about a big a deal as I'd ever been to. It was an absolute highlight. So for these kids to be around their first Razorbacks and be at a camp with them, I just see it on their faces."
Both events are day camps for kids from third through ninth grade. It's a non pad camp that stresses fundamentals.
"Really, it's just a fun morning," Garrett said. "We don't try to get too serious, just have some fun. The older junior high kids are going to get some fundamentals. But we just play with the young ones, make it fun games."
It's about as close to football as he wants to get these days. All of those trench battles left Garrett beat up.
"I played through two ruptured discs," he said. "They wanted to do a little surgery, take some bone from one place and put it some place else. I didn't go for that. I just fought through it. I still have some down times. I was working in Tennessee a few months back and went to the Wal-Mart to pick up some stuff. There was a jar on the bottom shelf. I bent over for it and I went down. I had to call some of my employees on the phone to come get me off the floor.
"I don't miss some parts of football. I don't miss the pain. I do miss the game days. I do miss the locker room and the guys. That's why this camp is so much fun, too. I do miss seeing all these guys, the Russ Browns and the rest."
And, we all miss Brandon Burlsworth. Like Garrett, I'm sure he'd be still wearing that horseshoe on his helmet for the Colts and those thick, black glasses.
The fee for the camp is $30 for pre-registered campers (deadline May 30) and $40 for day of camp registration. Deadline for pre-registration is May 30th. Registration is available on the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation web site at www.brandonburlsworth.org. All proceeds go directly to the foundation's programs for underprivileged children.
Businesses and individuals can also sponsor children who cannot afford to attend on their own. Since these children are the primary focus of the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, sponsorships are greatly encouraged. You may sponsor children on the foundation web site, brandonburlsworth.org or call (870) 741-1443 for more information.
Campers will need to furnish their own workout clothing, including shoes or cleats, shorts and t-shirt. This is a noncontact camp and no pads or helmets will be worn. Each camp will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will conclude with an autograph session at 12:30 p.m.
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