First off, let me be clear that I'm not a football fan, I don't follow high school, college or pro football, so I almost said 'no' when the kind folks at Grace Hill Media offered me the opportunity to watch the movie "Greater" ahead of its release and write a review. But in that invitation there was also enough of a hint that this was more than football involved in this movie. And that element of faith was what drew me in.
Greater, a movie which releases on the 29th of this month is the story of Brandon Burlsworth, who wanted, from an early age, to be an Arkansas Razorback. Of course there was no way this was going to happen, based on his football skills and abilities, but someone saw something in this young man who refused to take 'no' for an answer, and when on to become, according to a press release, 'the greatest walk-on in the history of college football".
Throughout the film one can't help but be impressed with Burlsworth's dedication. Even when suggestions on how he might improve are made with a hint of sarcasm, he takes them at face value and when he achieves the goal, heads back with that bubbling spirit, that says "OK, I did that, what's next?"
His dad is pretty much out of the picture, lots of brief appearances followed by broken promises, but he has the unwavering support of his mother, and the sometimes reluctant support of a much older brother. And a constant faith in God which gets him through heartbreak after heartbreak.
There are many scenes of Brandon on the practice field earlier than any of his team mates, and staying later, but each day starts with him reading the bible, and every weekend sees him making the drive home from college to accompany his mother to church.
What makes Brandon's faith standout is not how he tried to prove that he had it, but the simple fact of how he lived it. As time went on the team members who made fun of him for his glasses, his faith, his weight, or any other reason, saw how he responded and started following his example. They started going with him to Bible studies, and their lives changed as a result of his unwavering faith.
The press release (remember I don't follow football in any form) states: "Eleven days after being drafted into the NFL and before he was able to sign the contract that would have changed the financial status of his family forever, Brandon died in a car accident on his way home. His death stunned the state: He did everything right, and yet he was snatched away before he and his family could enjoy the fruits of his labor."
But the legacy lives on through the charitable foundations founded in his name. Scholarships are given, and walk-ons are much more likely to play ball.
Bring the Kleenex!