By Brent Huelsmann
Brandon Burlsworth was a walk-on at the University of Arkansas, and was drafted in the second round, 63rd overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft. He never played a down in the NFL.
When he arrived at Arkansas in 1994, he had no money, no famous last name, and no Division 1 scholarship offers. Burlsworth's incredible work ethic allowed him to go from walk-on, to All-SEC 1997-1998, and a First Team All-American. Burlsworth also excelled in the classroom as he became the first football player in the history of the University of Arkansas to earn a Master's Degree before playing in his last game.
Burlsworth's life tragically ended in an automobile accident just 11 days after the draft. Today Burlsworth's legacy is remembered in a variety of ways. The University of Arkansas has created an endowment in Brandon's name. Eighteen $5,000 academic scholarships and one $10,000 walk-on athletic scholarship are awarded each year. Also, the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation is engaged in various charitable endeavors including the giving of free eye care to thousands of underprivileged children. In 2010 the Burlsworth Trophy was created to honor the best college football player, who began his career as a walk-on.
The Burlsworth Character Award has been given out in Arkansas High Schools for the past 10 years in recognition of outstanding character and sportsmanship, and is now going nationwide. The award honors the player who may or may not be a top athletic performer, but who represents the ideals and values that Brandon Burlsworth had: to give 100 percent on the field and to stand as a moral example to his team.
This year, Hornets senior Bryce Paszkiewicz was honored as a 2015 winner of the Burlsworth Award. Paszkiewicz finished this year with 107 total tackles, 44 solo, 63 assists. Paszkiewicz finished with 1.5 sacks on the year. He finished with two fumble recoveries, and one interception in the Hornets 45-18 win over Niantic (Sangamon Valley) in the second round of the playoffs . This season the Hornets advanced to the Final Four in class 2A before losing to Auburn.