DEWITT, Mich. — The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation feels that our nation needs to place a higher value on character. The Burlsworth Character Award has been given out in Arkansas High Schools for the past 11 years in recognition of outstanding character and sportsmanship, and is now provided to students 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. We hope that the award encourages the honoree to continue on his path of excellence, and inspires others to follow his lead.
Football teams can recognize players that embody the award and recently in DeWitt, this is exactly what happened.
DeWitt's football team went to the State semi-finals this past November. Mason Stotenbur was not a starter on the team because he joined the team late after going to a different school for a few years.
Rob Zimmerman, coach of the DeWitt Football team shared that "Mason is a tremendous young man that possesses outstanding character. Day in and day out he gave 110% and did everything he could to make us a better team. He also displays the same selfless attitude as a high school student in the classroom. He is a great representative of both DeWitt High School and DeWitt Football."
Family members of Mason stated that Mason is so unassuming that it didn't even register to him the depth and importance of an award of this kind.
In speaking with Mason about the award he explained that "At first when he was telling a story about a new RESA teacher at the school and how a kid went out of his way to say hello and make her feel welcomed. I knew it was me but I did not know much about the award. After receiving the award I read more about the award and it felt amazing to receive this and I felt really honored to be selected."
The Burlsworth Story
When Brandon Burlsworth arrived on campus in 1994 as a walk-on, he had no money, no famous last name, and absolutely no Division 1 scholarship offers. Through his unbelievable work ethic and ceaseless determination, Brandon not only earned a scholarship, but became team captain, All-SEC 1997-1998, First Team All-American in 1998, and the first All-American from the University of Arkansas in a decade. His success was not limited to the gridiron. He was also named to the All-SEC Academic Honor Roll 1995-1998 and was the first football player in the entire history of his university to earn a Master’s degree “before” playing his last game. Brandon was selected by the Indianapolis Colts as the 63rd overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft. After minicamp, he was projected by his coaches to start as a rookie.
Unfortunately, Brandon was tragically killed in a head-on automobile collision just 11 days after the draft. Today, the University of Arkansas has created an endowment in Brandon’s name. Eighteen $5,000 academic scholarships and one $10,000 Walk-0n athletic scholarship are awarded each year to enrolled University of Arkansas upper class-men who exemplify the qualities that Brandon represented. The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation is engaged in various charitable endeavors including the provision of free eye care to thousands of underprivileged children. In 2010 the Burlsworth Trophy was created to honor the achievements and successes of the walk-on athlete. This award is presented annually to the most outstanding Division 1 college football player who began his career as a walk-on.