Documentary highlighting Razorbacks legend Brandon Burlsworth to air on SEC Network, ESPN+

HARRISON, Ark. – A new ESPN documentary featuring beloved University of Arkansas football walk-on Brandon Burlsworth will debut at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the SEC Network.

True Character also will be added to ESPN+ for on-demand viewing after its debut on the SEC Network.

Burlsworth was a graduate of Harrison High School who earned accolades as an offensive guard while playing for the Razorbacks. Just 11 days after being drafted by the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, his life was tragically cut short in an automobile accident near Alpena, Arkansas on April 28, 1999.

His story was immortalized in the 2016 feature film Greater, which has earned an impressive 69% approval rating from hardboiled critics on, and 86% from the site’s appreciative audiences.

In an interview with The Heartlander, Marty Burlsworth, Brandon’s brother, says he approached ESPN about creating the documentary. Production of True Character took nearly two years to film in Harrison and various other locations.

The film centers on a disputed fumble in a titanic battle of unbeatens against Tennessee – which went on to win the national championship that year. In an unfortunate turn of events, Brandon and his quarterback Clint Stoerner got tangled up, resulting in a fumble that helped turn a two-point lead into a four-point defeat.

The documentary comes 25 years after the play.

“I understand why the director and ESPN wanted to focus on that, because it certainly makes for an interesting story. It’s just not something Arkansas fans care to relive all that much, but it is what it is,” Marty says with a snicker.

Marty and his wife Vickie were deeply involved in the making of the documentary. He describes the filming process as “tedious,” and praises the director as first-class. 

Marty, a professional photographer for 26 years, says the film features a significant amount of his own footage from Razorback games, much of which has never been viewed by the public.

The earlier feature film, Greater, starring Chris Severio in the lead, brought attention to Brandon’s life and had a nationwide theatrical release. While the film directed by David Hunt featured Neal McDonough portraying Marty Burlsworth, he insists that certain parts of the story were not accurate.

“The movie is factual, it’s true. Is everything exactly the way it happened? No, but that is just the way movies are made. With [the documentary], I think what will be interesting to people is that they will get a little more insight on things that, with the movie, you can’t get into the details because you are trying to condense time and combine people.”

Marty and Vickie were offered the unique opportunity to watch the documentary before its big TV debut. Burlsworth finds it satisfying and predicts that Brandon’s other family, friends, fans and followers will enjoy it immensely.

The documentary’s producer has agreed to host a watch party in Harrison on Monday, just one day before its official release. Some of Brandon’s teammates, university friends, and others who have honored his legacy will be available for questions after the event.

“It’s gonna be a special night. You can reserve tickets. We’ve got sponsors, so there is no cost. It is filling up fast. We can already tell we are going to have a big crowd Monday night.”

Ticket orders can be placed here

These days, Harrison pays tribute to Brandon Burlsworth in various ways. The town recently had a mural painted on a building; the Brandon Burlsworth Youth Center is frequently used; his jersey number was retired by the Harrison Golden Goblins high school team; and his memorabilia is exhibited throughout the city.

To learn about the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation and its signature program “The Burls Kids” visit the website.

About The Author

Get News, the way it was meant to be:

Fair. Factual. Trustworthy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.