HOPE, Ark. — Hope High School graduating senior Bobcat Christopher Haywood wore the glasses last Thursday night.
Co-Athletic Director/Head Football Coach Phillip Turner announced at the annual Senior Awards Night that Haywood has been named a Brandon Burlsworth Character Award honoree.
"Chris is well-deserving of this award," Turner said. "Chris is a very high-character young man who exemplifies both high character and sportsmanship on and off the field."
Those particular qualities are key criteria in the nationwide selections of winners of the award.
The award recognizes high school athletes who reflect the ideals and values that its namesake, Brandon Burlsworth, brought to the University of Arkansas Razorback football program from 1994-1998.
Burlsworth, known for his distinctive black square-framed glasses, was a walk-on for the Hogs' program in 1994, according to the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation biography.
"Through his unbelievable work ethic and ceaseless determination, Brandon not only earned a scholarship, but became team captain, All-SEC 1997-1998, First Team All-American (1998), and was the first All-American from the University of Arkansas in a decade," the bio notes.
Burlsworth was named All-SEC Academic Honor Roll from 1995-1998, and was the first football player in the history of the U of A to earn a Master's degree before playing his final Razorback football game.
Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999, Burlsworth was killed in a car wreck 11 days after the NFL Draft; and, the foundation which bears his name was subsequently established.
Beyond his outstanding character, Turner said that Haywood is a good student.
"He is number two in his class, so he excels in the classroom," he said.
And while the award is not given specifically for athletic accomplishment, Haywood shines on the playing field, Turner said. "He is a three-year letterman in football and this past season he was our team captain."
Wearing a mock pair of Burlsworth's famed eyewear, Haywood said after the presentation that he was astonished by the award.
"It's truly an honor for me," Haywood said. "I am a huge Razorback fan and I know the Brandon Burlsworth story. I am just truly honored."
(Ken McLemore is communications director at Hope Public Schools. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-519-0530.)