LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – GREATER, a new film about the inspiring story of Christian football player Brandon Burlsworth, who shot from walk-on at the University of Arkansas to a NFL draftee, will hit theaters this summer.
Burlsworth, whose heavy frame and thick, black-rimmed glasses made him less than suitable for football as a youngster, walked on to the Razorback football team in 1994 with the encouragement of his older brother Marty, played by Neal McDonough (Lt. Lynn "Buck" Compton in Band of Brothers) and his mother Barbara (Leslie Easterbrook).
Defying the odds and committing himself to improving, Burlsworth earned his way onto the starting roster, was a First Team SEC All-American and was eventually drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999.
"Brandon's dedication and work ethic are still talked about in Arkansas. He was the first one to practice and the last to leave going all the way back to his high school days," writer/producer Brian Reindl said in a press release. "Doing things 'the Burls Way' is still considered the gold standard of character and determination."
Brandon, played by newcomer Chris Severio, was a devout Christian who never cursed or drank and who went home weekly to see his mother.
Football was Brandon's means of improving his family's standing in life, according to the film's producers. However, he knew the game would end someday, so he earned both a bachelor's and master's degree while playing football at Arkansas – the first player ever to do so.
Eleven days after being drafted by the Colts, Brandon was killed in a car accident on his way home. The film explores not only Brandon's encouraging story but the journey of his brother Marty as well.
"This film is as much about Marty's journey as it is about Brandon's," Reindl explained. "He goes through something we all face when we experience tragedy and trials: Which voices do we listen to? The voices of faith, hope, and trust ... or the voices of doubt, disbelief, and despair."
McDonough, a Christian actor who was fired from his role on ABC's "Scoundrels" for refusing to perform a sex scene, said he was attracted to the script because of the unfolding faith of the characters. He first read the script while sitting in a traffic jam in Los Angeles.
GREATER was scheduled for release Jan. 29, but producers pushed back the release date in the hopes of getting it into more theaters.