Will 2021 be the year when Dan Hampton and Brandon Burlsworth finally enter College Football’s Hall of Fame? Both are on the ballot for the fifth time. Marty Burlsworth told the Pig Trail Nation that the competition is tough but his brother will eventually get in. He has no doubt about that. Hampton believes there have been a couple of stumbling blocks for him.
“The Southwest Conference is from an orphaned era,” Hampton declared. “Nobody cares. The Houston Post gave me a sterling silver serving tray with, “Southwest Conference Player of the Year” inscribed on it. I was very proud of that. Now there’s no Southwest Conference, no Houston Post and I don’t know what happened to the tray. ”
Hampton is also convinced that the ’75, ’77 and ’78 Razorbacks did not get the kind of publicity that those teams deserved.
“Arkansas had been in kind of a down cycle,” Hampton recalled. “They had not been on the national stage for a while and yet three out of my four years we go to a major bowl. We were one Earl Campbell tackle away from winning a national championship. We were that good. People ask me, ‘Who was the toughest player you ever had to tackle in the NFL?’ It wasn’t the NFL. It was Earl Campbell in the SWC.”
Getting into the College Hall of Fame is something that a good PR campaign could probably fix, Hampton noted, “But,” he said, “I ain’t got no PR plan. We had a hell of a team. I was a pretty good player. To be nominated is great but to get in the Hall of Fame, that would be super.”
Marty Burlsworth believes that Brandon would be typically humble about getting into the Hall of Fame but his family doesn’t have to be.
“As a family we can kind of pump our chests a little bit more and try to root him on,” Burlsworth noted. “But it would mean a great deal to his family for him to be recognized for what all he did.”
Dan Hampton and Brandon Burlsworth played two decades apart. They never met. But Hampton believes they had one very important thing in common. Both were under recruited kids from Arkansas and both said to themselves, “I want to be a Razorback! When you get there it’s not peer pressure, it’s just a will to succeed that makes you do all the things you have to do. The extra hours. The training and work and all those things.”
Hampton is also certain that the best Razorback teams have been built on a foundation of Arkansas kids and he has strong opinions about certain coaches who he calls, “a bunch of carpetbaggers just looking for an opportunity. Isn’t it refreshing to have a guy like (Sam )Pittman that understands the vibe?”
Hampton had no trouble making the NFL Hall of Fame. Just twelve years after he hung up his cleats in Chicago he was in. His time with the Bears was the best in franchise history including a one loss season in 1985 with a blowout win over New England in Super Bowl XX.
Brandon Burlsworth never got a shot at the NFL. Going in the 3rd round of the ’99 draft to Indianapolis, he was in line to start on the offensive line as after an impressive showing in the team’s rookie mini camp. A traffic accident ended his life shortly afterward.
“I told the Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker that I felt like if Brandon had been able to play his career he would have been able to get into the Pro Hall of Fame as well,” Marty Burlsworth noted.
Burlsworth’s dedication and discipline have been well documented but Marty Burlsworth said it was only recently that he recalled that he never heard his brother complain about anything with regard to football. “It was tough. He had to take a lot of weight off when he first got there. I’ve talked to some of his teammates and they were concerned about his health while he was going through that. But that was his normal way of doing business.”
Hampton believes those qualities are missing in too many of today’s players. He is especially concerned with the way politics is creeping into the game even at the college level. “We only knew one way to do it,” Hampton recalled. “Listen to your coach, do your job and shut up.”
“My father passed away when I was twelve,” Hampton continued, “and then I fell out of a tree and I was in a wheelchair and I didn’t have a whole lot of guidance. The next thing you know the great Bill Reed (Jacksonville High head coach ’71-’82) talked me into playing football and one thing led to another. I think it’s the American dream. All you can ask for is an opportunity. Everybody’s screaming, ‘I want this. I want that.’ It should be equal opportunity for everyone but not equal outcome. Its not what you’re projected to be but what you’re capable of becoming and that’s what Burlsworth did.”
“Everything’s changed now,” Hampton said of college football today. “Kids have their own apartments. They almost have like their own suite as a locker. Looking back, one of my roommates, Mike Burlingame, said about five years ago, ‘It was like they were tying to run us all off.’ Me, I’m proud of the fact that it was hard. We thought we could walk on water ’cause we had paid a price.”
Hampton remembers his time at Arkansas as, “A great life. Sidney (Moncrief) and Marvin Delph lived next to me in Wilson Sharp. All the food you could eat. We got eight dollars a month in a laundry check to clean our clothes. It was a great time to be a Razorback.”