A Youthful Voice...The Advocate Youth Page Schyler Angell

By SCHYLER ANGELL
Associate Editor,
Advocate Youth Page

It wasn’t until a Sunday morning church service that I realized how crazy these University of Arkansas fans were. I’d usually expect to see school spirit exclusively on display at events like pep rallies and tailgates, so I couldn’t help but laugh when my preacher welcomed his congregation and said “Good morning, everyone. How about that hog win yesterday?!” and dismissed us with a “Have a blessed week and WOO PIG!” I’ve enjoyed learning the culture of the university, and the traditions and history that make it unique.

One of the most inspiring things I’ve learned about the school’s history is the life story of Brandon Burlsworth, a former Arkansas Razorback football player.
Brandon’s story of overcoming hardships and his dedication to football is told through the movie, Greater. The movie was released in 2016 and can now be watched on Netflix and Prime. An acquaintance of Brandon’s said, “From someone who had the privilege to know him, I would offer the perspective that the movie is a true depiction of his nature and his unyielding commitment to always put others before himself.”

Brandon grew up in Harrison, Arkansas and graduated from high school there in 1994. As a high school football player, he received All-State honors. He was offered several scholarships from small universities, but instead decided to join the University of Arkansas’ team as a walk on.

After red-shirting his freshman year, he earned himself a scholarship and starting position for the team. His strong work ethic propelled him from a walk on to an All-American player in 1998. The following year he played his final game at the Citrus Bowl, and became the first Razorback football player to earn a master’s degree.

At the NFL Draft, Burlsworth was the 63rd pick in the third round for the Indianapolis Colts and was projected to start for the team. However, only 11 days after being drafted, Burlsworth was killed in a car accident after returning home from a workout.

Although his football career and life were tragically cut short, his legacy still remains through the Burls’ kids’ program, the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation and the Burlsworth Trophy. The Burlsworth Trophy is awarded to the most excellent walk on football player in the nation each year in his memory. The University of Arkansas has enclosed his locker in a glass case in the locker room and retired his #77 jersey.

After watching the movie Greater, I had a new appreciation for Arkansas football, and another reason to get excited for games.

Despite my dad’s failed attempts to teach me, I had never even called the hogs before moving to Fayetteville. I was eager for my first game day as I watched fans pile into the city. The roads shut down and campus becomes scattered with white tailgating tents.

It’s a great time to be a new fan as the football team has earned themselves a 4-0 record for the first time since 2003. I’ve enjoyed watching two of these winning home games and seeing the team ranking climb to the #8 spot in the AP Poll Ranking after Week 5. These are exciting times for the Razorbacks to say the least.

Much of the team’s success can be accredited to the head football coach Sam Pitman, who is known for his friendly demeanor and loudly exclaiming the phrase “YESSIRR.”

Pittman was previously an assistant coach at the University of Georgia where he gained a reputation as "one of the best recruiters and offensive line coaches in the SEC."

In 2019, he was hired as head coach for the U of A. One day on my walk to class, I had an unexpected chance to meet Coach Pittman at a student welcome event! He even told me he liked my shirt!

My adventures at college are going well. With my newfound interest in college football, I even purchased a pair of bright red boots from Angell’s Western Wear to add to my gameday outfits.

Before I know it, I might turn into one of those “crazy Arkansas fans,” just like my preacher.