Updated: Nov 2
Baker Mayfield, Stetson Bennett, Hunter Renfrow, Grant Morgan… All four with one thing in common, starting their collegiate journey as a walk-on. In Grant Morgan’s (2021 Burlsworth Trophy Recipient) acceptance speech he says, “Walk-on is not a negative meaning. Walk-on is not a negative saying at all, to me it's something special… a badge of honor for me to be able to say I was a walk-on because they are saying I was willing to give up everything to be on the team and give it my all.” The Brandon Burlsworth Trophy exemplifies just that; hard-working underdogs, determination, and a want to prove to all they belong.
When Marty Burlsworth (Brandon’s older brother and Burlsworth Foundation president), and Brian Reindl (University of Arkansas Alumni, local entrepreneur, and Trophy Originator) began crafting the award, they wanted the trophy to be personal, unique, and something Brandon would be proud of. Arkansas artist and sculptor, Raymond Gibby, was selected to do the job.
Attention to detail was something that typified Brandon, so having it sculpted with this kind of attention was very important. When deciding on the perfect pose to be cast, several options were considered. Rather than choosing a pose of a stance before a play begins, it was decided it would be better to show him in the middle of a play in a position of action. And rather than show him in a group or battling an opponent, it was decided it was more appropriate to show him in the singular.
These two things, “action” and “singularity” really exemplify the journey of a walk-on. Singular because no one is counting on you to contribute so you don't receive the attention given to the scholarship guys; and action because a walk-on has to work twice as hard just to be noticed.
The base of the Burlsworth Trophy is carved out of Burl Walnut. Not only is the wood beautiful and rich, but it is more personal and meaningful to the award as its name actually sounds and is spelled like a popular nickname given to Brandon by his fellow teammates. The base of the trophy is also three-tiered, symbolizing what Brandon called his life priorities: Faith, Family, and Football.
Now, 13 years later, the Burlsworth Trophy continues to grow each year. In 2019, the trophy was added to the National College Football Awards Association, which is a collection of individual awards that honor the nation's best players at every position. The Brandon Burlsworth Trophy is one of the most distinguished awards in college football and one of a great story and even better person. Brandon’s legacy will continue to live on through future recipients, family members, friends, and everyone who decides to live their life “The Burls Way.”
To purchase tickets to this year's event on December 4th at Crystal Bridges Museum or to contribute to one of college football's most prestigious awards, click below.