FAYETTEVILLE - A trophy bearing the name of Arkansas' most famous walk-on will honor some of the nation's best.
The Burlsworth Trophy was unveiled Monday in a press conference at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Named for Brandon Burlsworth, a Razorback walk-on turned all-American, the award will recognize college football's best player that began his career as a walk-on.
"I can assure you when Brandon came to the University of Arkansas in 1994 he could never have dreamed of this day - a day when a national award bearing his name would be announced," said Marty Burlsworth, Brandon's brother. "He would be honored and humbled by this announcement. On behalf of our family and the Burlsworth Foundation, we are pleased this award will give other walk-ons the recognition they deserve."
Lightly recruited, Burlsworth came to Arkansas as a walk-on and eventually worked his way onto scholarship. He was a three-year starter at offensive guard, was named all-SEC twice and all-American in 1998. In addition, Burlsworth graduated with his Master's degree prior to his final game.
"Nobody saw that he would be a great player, nobody saw he'd be an all-American and nobody saw he'd be a great student," former Razorback coach Danny Ford said. "You just can't see that because you can't look at a gentleman's heart. He was able to come and overachieve."
Ford is one of seven members of the Burlsworth Tropy selection committee, alongside former Arkansas coach and athletics director Frank Broyles, former Arkansas coach Ken Hatfield, former Razorback player Jim Lindsey, former NFL head coach Dan Reeves, former NFL assistant coach Howard Mudd and Harrison coach Tommy Tice, who coached Burlsworth in high school.
The inaugural trophy will be presented by the Rotary Club of Springdale at a banquet on Feb. 7, 2011. Each Football Bowl Subdivision school will be given the chance to nominate one player for the award.
"The greatest thing us old coaches know is you don't have successful championship teams without walk-ons," Hatfield said. "The walk-on is really the glue that keeps everything together because he plays with such determination, and such heart, and such fight that the rest of the scholarship players pull for that particular individual."
David Bazzel, executive director for the Broyles Award, said Brian Reindl came up with the concept for the Burlsworth Trophy nearly two years ago.
"He came down to Little Rock and we sat down, and just like we did with the Broyles Award, you just knew the award fit," Bazzel said. "From that point on Brian has worked hard to make this award happen."
Reindl owns the rights to Greater Productions, LLC, a company making a film called "Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story". According to their website the film will be released in 2012.
"Brandon is the perfect icon for this award," Reindl said. "He's a guy that was a walk-on that turned himself into an all-American.
"Anybody that has an award named after them should meet two criteria: They should be able to win the award themselves and they should be a person worthy of being cast in bronze. Brandon definitely meets both of those."