What happened to Brandon Burlsworth? Everything you need to know

What happened to Brandon Burlsworth? Everything you need to know

American football player Brandon Burlsworth was an offensive lineman for the Arkansas Razorbacks from 1995 to 1998. His bright future in the NFL was cut short when he died in 1999 at age 22, a few days after the Indianapolis Colts chose him in the 1999 NFL draft. Discover what caused Brandon Burlsworth's death, the money his family received afterward, how his teams honored him, a wedding that never happened, and more.

Brandon Burlsworth's death
Brandon Burlsworth is wearing eyeglasses. Photo: @BrandonBurlsworthFoundation (modified by author)
Source: UGC


In 2001, Jeff Kinley released a book, Through the Eyes of a Champion: The Brandon Burlsworth Story, as a tribute to the young player. On top of that, a film titled Greater was released in 2016. It depicted Brandon's life and death. Discover everything the public knows about his death below.

Profile summary

Full nameBrandon Vaughn Burlsworth
Date of birth20 September 1976
Date of death28 April 1999
Age22 years (at the time of death)
Zodiac signVirgo
Place of birthHarrison, Arkansas, United States
Place of deathAlpena, Arkansas, United States
Cause of deathCar Accident
Height6'4" (193 cm)
Weight308 lbs. (139 kg)
Hair colorDark brown
Eye colorBrown
MotherBarbara Burlsworth
FatherLeo Burlsworth
SiblingsMarty Burlsworth and Grady Burlsworth
Relationship statusEngaged (at the time of death)
PartnerHeather Nichols
High SchoolHarrison High School
UniversityUniversity of Arkansas
ProfessionFootball player
TeamArkansas Razorbacks (1995 to 1998)
Position Guard

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Who was Brandon Burlsworth?

Brandon Vaughn Burlsworth was an American football player. He joined the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1995, where he played for around three years. The player died eleven days after the Indianapolis Colts selected him with the 63rd pick in the third round of the 1999 NFL draft.

How old was Brandon Burlsworth when he died?

Burlsworth was 22 years old at the time of death. He was born on 20 September 1976 in Harrison, Arkansas, USA, and died on 28 April 1999 in Alpena, Arkansas, USA.

Who were Brandon Burlsworth's parents?

The American footballer was one of the three sons of Barbara and George Leo Burlsworth. Brandon passed away two years after his father, who died on 2 April 1997 in Boone County, Arkansas, USA, aged 58.

Did Brandon Burlsworth have a brother?

Brandon had two brothers, Grady and Marty. His older brother, Marty, is the founder, CEO, and chairman of the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation.

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Brandon Burlsworth's biography
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: Original

Educational background

After graduating from Harrison High School, he received multiple scholarship offers from universities but turned down most of them in favor of the University of Arkansas.

The player was an All-State selection in high school and a volunteer walk-on football player at the University of Arkansas.

Brandon graduated in 1998 from the University of Arkansas with a degree in business administration and completed his MBA the following year.

What was the cause of Brandon Burlsworth's death?

Brandon Burlsworth's cause of death was a car accident. The crash happened on 28 April 1999 on the highway near Alpena, Arkansas, while on his way home from the University of Arkansas to attend church with his mom.

What happened to Brandon Burlsworth?

Burlsworth's car collided with an incoming 18-wheeler, veered back into his lane, and then collided head-on with another tractor-trailer. The NFL player was declared dead at the scene. The accident occurred a few days after the Indianapolis Colts selected him for an NFL draft.

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Who killed Brandon Burlsworth?

No one killed him since his death was a accident. What's more the identity of the driver of the car that crashed with the young NFL star's vehicle has never been revealed to the public. Brandon Burlsworth's autopsy report only concluded that he died from the car crash's impact.

Brandon Burlsworth's death
Brandon, no. 77, walks with a teammate, no. 54, (L) and does a post-game interview with JE Dunlap (R). Photo: @BrandonBurlsworthFoundation (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Shortly after his death, the University of Arkansas permanently retired Brandon Burlsworth's jersey number, 77, in a ceremony at their first home game of the 1999 season. It is one of the two numbers the university has ever retired. The other is number 12 of retired player Clyde Scott.

What happened to the Burlsworth family?

The Indianapolis Colts honored him by giving each of his family members and the University of Arkansas' Athletic Director a $5,000 check at halftime of the first Colts game.

Where is Brandon Burlsworth buried?

He was laid to rest on 2 May 1999 at the Gass Cemetery in Omaha. Over 1,000 mourners gathered at the Harrison High School auditorium, players from Harrison's football team wore blue and yellow jerseys, and over 100 members of Burlsworth's family were present.

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Who was Brandon Burlsworth's fiancé?

The player was preparing to marry Heather Nichols but was buried on Saturday, the same day the two were to pick out their wedding rings.

Is the movie Greater a true story?

The movie is based on Brandon Burlsworth's life, including his struggles. The feature film hit theaters in 2016 and later made it into Netflix and other streaming platforms.

How tall was Brandon Burlsworth?

The late NFL star was 6'4" (193 cm) tall.

Brandon Burlsworth's death
Brandon playing in white and red jersey number 77. Photo: @BrandonBurlsworthFoundation (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Facts about Brandon Burlsworth

  • He was the first Arkansas Razorback player to complete a master's degree before playing his final game.
  • Burlsworth's locker in the Arkansas Razorback's locker room is encased and preserved in glass in his honor.
  • Brandon was added to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
  • He was added to the University of Arkansas Letterman's Association Hall of Honor in 2004.
  • In 2013, Bleacher Report named Brandon the #1 Greatest Walk-On player of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Era.
  • The Harrison Youth Center in Harrison, Arkansas, was renamed the Brandon Burlsworth Youth Center in May 1999.
  • Since he had planned to help underprivileged children, Burlsworth's family established a foundation in his honor.
  • The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation provides opportunities for underprivileged children in honor of the late American footballer.

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