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Production Photo - Brandon and TeammatesBrandon Burlsworth is known for being one of the greatest walk-ons in college football history, and his legacy is now the subject of the movie “Greater.” The film tells the story of Burlsworth’s journey from unlikely University of Arkansas walk-on to 1998 All-American. Based on the true story, actor Chris Severio portrays Brandon on the big screen.

The Burlsworth family created the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation in honor of Brandon who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1999. He had planned to help underprivileged children, and his family stepped up to make that dream still become a reality.

Beliefnet caught up with Marty Bulsworth’s  brother, Brandon to talk about his brother’s legacy, the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation and the new film debuting on August 26th.

What inspired you and your family to start the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation?

Brandon had talked about helping underprivileged kids when he made it to the NFL.  After the shock of the accident wore off, we wanted to create something so his example was not forgotten. The idea of the Foundation was a great way to honor his legacy.

The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation is a Christian organization, with a mission to support the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children who have limited opportunities. How did you and your family come up with this mission?

We are proud to be known for the things that Brandon was known for: Faith, Family and Football. He always had a soft spot for kids.  I remember at ball games and restaurants; the kids would line up for his autograph and I never saw him turn one child away.  He was humbled that they would ask.  He knew the responsibility that being in the spotlight came with.  We are associated with sports but the spiritual needs are just as important.  Our Burlsworth Character Award is available to over 16,000 high school football programs in the Nation.  We are proud to bring recognition to those student athletics that display character.

Production Photo - Marty and BrandonWhy do you believe instilling Christian values and supporting children’s spiritual needs at an early age is so important?

Childhood is the developmental period of everything, values, self-worth, confidence and especially a strong spiritual foundation. So many of the kids that we work with struggle not only financially but with these issues that are so vital.  Our goal is to change that pattern and help them take charge of their own future.  We know that faith is the foundation, then the family has a pattern of stability and then school and sports will all work out.

What are some of the social benefits of children playing sports?

My wife and I have 3 boys.  They have all played sports and I encouraged each one of them.  A sport teaches teamwork, putting others first, a good work ethic, discipline, getting along with other teammates and obedience to an authority higher than us.

What are some of the positive values children learn from playing sports? Why are these values so important?

Sports are all about the teamwork.  You can’t be selfish and succeed successfully in sports. Christians are to put others first before our self. You learn to obey your coaches. We are to obey our elders as we read and study our Bible. We see athletes who rise to the top but lack of character will always show itself. I see so many great examples of the parallels of sports and our walk with God.

What are some of the ways your foundation is transforming children’s lives?

One of my personal favorite programs we do is Eyes Of A Champion.  We, in partnership with Walmart and independent Optometrists provide over 1,000 pairs of eye exams and eyeglasses to underprivileged Pre-K thru 12th grade students.  Our plans are to take the program nationwide.

The Burls Kids program take 25 underprivileged kids to every home Razorback and Indianapolis Colts game.  They are given shirts, books, replica glasses and special treatment that day.  In most of these kids, it’s the only day that they get to feel special.  Our sponsors give each child some spending money for the day.  One young boy asked if he could spend $5 and give the rest to his mom.  He said. “She really needs it” That’s the quality of kids we are striving to work with.

What advice can you give young, aspiring athletes like Brandon who may not believe they have what it takes to make it

My closing talk after we first meet the Burls Kids at the Arkansas games is this;  “Has anyone ever told you that you’re not good enough, that you’re not smart enough, that you’re not strong enough, or that you’re not fast enough?  Remember Brandon’s story and then the next time that happens, you tell them…….Watch Me!

Production Photo - Marty and Young BrandonWhat do you hope moviegoers will take away from “Greater”?

“Greater” is an inspiring story of Brandon’s life and experiences.  But it has a wonderful message and strives to answer the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  God has given us free choice. We have a decision to allow God to work through our pain, or we do the easy thing and give up and allow the devil to control the situation. Our family chose to use this for his glory.  Romans 8:28 tells us, “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose”.  Our loss is great, but God is “Greater”!

The faith-based film is based on an amazing legacy of a remarkable human being. The movie is sure to inspire and encourage those who take the time to watch it. Make sure to catch “Greater” in theaters on Friday, August 26th.

rio-closing-ceremony-olympics-handover-yuriko-koike_3770057The Rio Olympics ended with a beautiful and spectacular closing ceremony on Sunday night. It ended officially with the handing over of control for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Spectators, athletes and officials had to brave strong wind and rain to attend the carnival-inspired ceremony.

The ceremony featured parades, dances, and performances by Samba legend Martinho da Vila, electronic music artist Kygo and singer Julia Michales.

“These were a marvellous Olympics, in a marvellous city,” International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach reportedly said. “Over the last 16 days a united Brazil inspired the world, in difficult times for all of us, with its irresistible joy for life.”

Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes returned the Olympic flag to Bach, who then handed it over to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike which officially signaled the transition to the 2020 Olympics. Tokyo then stole the show with their own impressive showcase. Popular fictional characters including Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Pac-man and Mario from Nintendo’s famous Mario game franchise all made an appearance.

It was a spectacular show from Rio, whose country was clouded in controversy in the Games. Problems surrounding economic mishaps, security concerns, the Zika virus and stunted preparation added issues to the games.

Rio 2016 organizing committee president Carlos Arthur Nuzman said: “The Games in Rio is a great challenge, but a challenge with success. I am proud of my country, my city and my people. Rio has delivered history.”

Gold medalist Simone Biles carried the U.S. flag during the ‘Heroes of the Games’ segment at the closing ceremony. The ceremony ended with a confetti and fireworks show.

The last few days of the competition continued to be action-packed, and led to a great finale of the games.

Usain Bolt did it again, making him nine for nine. In his final Olympic event, the sprinting icon surged away and sealed the 4×100-meter relay for Jamaica. This was his third gold medal for the third time – a perfect record.

The U.S. men were disqualified in the 4×100 -meter relay, however the American women went on to dominate. The U.S. won their sixth consecutive gold medal in the 4×400 relay beating out Jamacia and Great Britain.

Brazil beat Germany in a penalty shoot-out to end their long wait for an Olympic Games football gold medal. After a 1-1 draw in normal time, and no goals in the extra 30 minutes, Brazil’s Neymar stepped up to score the winning spot-kick and seal a 5-4 shoot-out win after goalkeeper Weverton had saved Germany’s fifth penalty.

The United States women’s water polo team became the first group to win consecutive Olympic gold medals, defeating Italy 12-5 in the final. While the U.S. women’s basketball team claimed its sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal on Saturday.

U.S. topped the final medal table winning 121 medals in total: 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze medals.

Olympic-gold-1024x576Thursday the Americans gained another seven total medals, including five golds and four medals on the track. The great day for the U.S. started in the morning when Kerron Clement took the men’s 400 hurdles. It continued into the evening with wins by Ryan Crouser (men’s shot put), Ashton Eaton (men’s decathlon) and Dalilah Muhammad (women’s 400 hurdles).

The final gold medal for the American’s was in women’s wrestling. Helen Maroulis came through qualifications and won five matches to get the 53kg freestyle gold. It is the first women’s wrestling gold medal in the country’s history.

The U.S. women’s basketball team also advanced to the gold medal game, beating out France in the semifinals. The women’s volleyball team wasn’t as lucky. They suffered a defeat in their semifinals against Serbia. They will now play for the bronze.

Usain Bolt again stole the show on the track. The Jamaican sprinter cruised to an easy win in the 200 meters to win his eighth career gold medal and unprecedented third in the race.

The U.S. now has 100 medals which is 42 more than the second place China. Of those 100 medals, 25 of them are gold. China has 58 total medals, Great Britain with 56, Russia with 44 and in fifth place is Japan, with 35.

Drama is surrounding the Olympics with swimmer Ryan Lochte. Brazilian police say that Lochte and three U.S. teammates were not robbed after a night of partying, as the swimmer alleged. Instead, the intoxicated athletes vandalized a gas station bathroom and were questioned by armed guards before they paid for the damage and left.

Earlier Thursday, a Brazilian police official told The Associated Press that two of the swimmers said Lochte had made the story up and that the gas station manager actually demanded money from them to pay for the door. The swimmers handed over money and left.

More details surrounding the swimmer’s claims will come out over the next few days.

usain_bolt-1250x750Runner Usain Bolt has found a new rival after Justin Gatlin surprisingly failed to advance past the men’s 200-meter semifinals. In Bolt’s semifinal-run, he was challenged by 21-year-old Canadian Andre De Grasse. Bolt, a Jamaican sprinting legend, smiled and pushed forward to beat out De Grasse.

De Grasse stated it was all a part of the plan. “I wanted to make (Bolt) use as much energy as possible because I think I am going to do a better job of recovering than he is,” he said. “I am younger, so we will see what happens.”

Things have been going amazingly for the U.S. women’s track and field team. First, Tianna Bartoletta leaped 7.17 meters to win the women’s long jump, bumping fellow American and reigning champ Brittney Reese to silver. Next, breakout star Tori Bowie took bronze in the 200 meters to become the first American runner with two medals in Rio.

Lastly, an unprecedented show of dominance in the 100 hurdles by Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin left the United States sweeping the podium. They finished first, second and third.

USA Basketball continues to win despite a bumpy ride at the beginning. They rose to the occasion in elimination play to clobber Argentina 105-78 in the quarterfinals. Kevin Durant led the Americans with 27 points. Coming up next is the 2008 and 2012 silver medalists Spain, who just dominated France.

Be sure to catch the latest Olympic competitions this week. Women’s semifinals in basketball, men’s track and field decathlon, and women’s volleyball are all happening today and are sure to leave you glued to the TV.

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