Brandon Burlsworth is hailed as the greatest walk-on in college football history.
Burlsworth was also drafted by the Colts, has a trophy named after him that’s given to a player who started his football career as a walk-on and is responsible for the Brandon Burlsworth foundation, which helps underprivileged kids, both physically and spiritually. He’s also quite the virtuous, pious guy — not exactly fitting the Division 1 football player stereotype.
Greater tells viewers this and more. Burlsworth started out his football career as an overweight middle schooler who was the only kid on the bench for his school team. However, his perseverance and dedication soon landed him a spot on his high school team, then a place as an Arkansas Razorback and eventually a spot in the NFL. Burlsworth’s incredible journey was cut short, however, as he died in a car accident just a few days after he was drafted by the Colts.
The film is Christian-based, so it not only covers Burlsworth’s life, but it, of course, also delves into broader themes, namely the question, “Why does tragedy happen to a good person?”
If you know Burlsworth’s story, the film carries no surprises; it’s main focus is the messages it shares.
Chris Severio stars as Burlsworth; Neal McDonough (Arrow) plays his much older brother Marty and Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy film series) plays Burlsworth’s mother Barb.
It’s Serverio’s first feature film, and, while he is not the strongest actor of the leads and doesn’t necessarily look like a D1 football player, he holds his own and shows promise for the future.
McDonough is the best actor of the group, portraying a much softer, vulnerable character than is typical for him.
Greater far exceeds the typical quality of a small-budget Christian film. It won’t be up for any Oscars, but at the same time, I don’t think the Oscars is what the creators of Greater had in mind. Greater is a film that especially appeals to a specific audience, delighting sports fanatics and Christians alike, with sport-fanatic-Christians definitely giving it high praise.
While it’s slow-moving at times and perhaps can be a little too preachy, Greater tells the story of a life that, although cut short, was intentional and well lived, providing a story that cuts to the heart and is full of inspiration for all moviegoers.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the 1993 biographical film Rudy. Not only is Rudy considered one of the greatest sports films, but it, like Greater, is also about the true story of a college walk-on, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. The two films are quite different in nature since Greater is a Christian-based film, while Rudy had a much larger budget and was produced by TriStar Pictures.
Rudy is held as one of the most inspirational sports films of all time and ranked #54 on AFI’s “100 years . . . 100 cheers” list of the most inspirational films in the past century. Rudy stars Sean Astin as Rudy, Jon Favreau as D-Bob and Ned Beatty as Daniel Ruettiger, Sr.
Photo courtesy of Grace Hill Media