“Greater”: The Incredible God-story Behind College a Football Legend

This movie opens up with two men puzzled over what appears be a piece of granite. We later realize the granite is actually a gravesite headstone, specifically for the one who is the subject of the movie – our protagonist Brandon Burlsworth (played by Christopher Severio). Our first introduction is to his older brother, Marty (played by Neal McDonough) and father-figure, grappling with Brandon’s “untimely death.” The story is told through Marty’s eyes.
The story then begins to unfold in the form of flashbacks. This unfolding is beautifully done as we get to “know” Brandon, a young man of stellar Christian character, facing constant ridicule because of his size, awkwardness, and Christian conduct. We see that he never compromises to fit into any group. There is a constant about him and his kindness in the face of cruelty, which often disarmed his detractors, eventually winning some of them over to faith in Jesus Christ.
Brandon’s Struggles
What this overweight, bullied, fatherless, and financially-challenged young man was able to accomplish in his lifetime was nothing short of astounding. He was so influential that the impact of his life is still being felt by many, who today are the beneficiaries of what He accomplished during his short life. Brandon had a tenacity in his faith that some might call stubbornness. Yet he knew what God had put in him and would accept nothing less than God’s best.
Marty – Brother & “Father”
One important subplot in the movie is the way his brother Marty, 17 years Brandon’s senior, struggled in his journey to understand the loss of his brother at such a crucial time in his life and that of his family. Marty’s struggle took him to the brink of losing his faith back to trust and faith in God again. We see the struggle involving two characters, “The Farmer,” (Nick Searcy) encouraging him to deny God, and Clint (Connor Antico), a young a teenager Brandon influenced, encouraging him to keep going and honor his brother’s amazing life. Marty’s faith journey hinged on the memory of his brother and how he chose to live his life in perfect trust in God. Neal McDonough does an outstanding job as Marty Burlsworth.
Becoming a Razorback
As the title suggests, this is the story of the most successful walk-on in the history of college football at the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. To accomplish this feat, Brandon Burlsworth, who at 12 years old sitting on the couch eating potato chips and cheesecake stated that he would one day play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. His mother believed him and his brother scoffed. He would have to overcome a plethora of insurmountable odds to reach that goal, including obesity, ridicule, bullying, poverty, clumsiness, and the fact that “walk-ons” rarely ever transitioned into actual players, earned athletic scholarships, played in playoffs games, and certainly had no chance at the NFL. Brandon Burlsworth changed all of those assumptions, proving that great skills can in fact be learned. He accomplished what no other player had done. The “walk-on” became a true Razorback, earned a scholarship for a full ride at University of Arkansas, made all-American, and was drafted to the NFL by the Indiana Colts. However, he was killed in a car crash right before he contracted with the Colts at the young age of 22 years old.
The God-story always makes for a rich movie experience, especially when done well. The moral lessons in this movie are numerous: good guys do win; hard work pays off; endure hardship to overcome obstacles and achieve goals; nothing is impossible with God; choose Christ at a young age and you will always be a winner in Christ’s eyes; excelling at a sport is fine as long as you honor and keep Christ first. There are many more lessons depicted in this movie such as God’s ability to Father the fatherless and provide surrogates dad’s to guide the young along life’s path. Brandon had his older brother, as well as his high school and college football coaches. And in many ways Brandon himself “fathered” his friends spiritually. His life proves that trust in God and humility can cause God’s grace and favor to rest on a life. Brandon was never arrogant about his accomplishments or abilities because he knew without God, none of it would have been possible. There is much more that could be said about the ‘pros’ of this movie the most important is that this is definitely one for your home movie library.
At times it was very difficult to hear words as the proper renunciation was often lost in an accent, especially Michael Parks, who played Brandon and Marty’s father. He seemed to play the part of an alcoholic too well. At times his speech was too slurred to discern his words. I never knew him to have such a thick Southern accent. At other times the sound seemed a bit muffled. Perhaps not so much of an issue in a theater setting. The pros of this movie, however, so far outweigh the cons, this does not detract from the effectiveness of its story-telling ability. It simply requires the viewer to listen to the actors more attentively.
See this movie. It is worth it to know this story, which just might inspire you to reach for the “impossible” dreams resting and trusting in Christ. The lessons and morals are marvelously interwoven into the story of this remarkable young man’s life. Additionally, the subplots are wonderfully resolved into a great story. This movie proves that true stories are often more remarkable than fictional ones.
“Greater” is great indeed, and we are all better off for having “met” Brandon Burlsworth through this film.
This movie gets a high grade for its storytelling ability and amazing subject. I had never heard of Brandon Burlsworth before this story but now that I have, it has impacted me greatly. Bravo to the filmmakers for a story well told.

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