The third time was the charm for Luke Falk when it came to the Burlsworth Trophy.
On Monday, the Washington State quarterback won the award given to the top former walk-on in college football – no easy feat given that for the third year in a row, Falk was going up against two-time Burlsworth winner Baker Mayfield. The Oklahoma quarterback is also the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy and was named one of three Heisman finalists just hours after the Burlsworth announcement.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Falk said of Mayfield in an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jessamyn McIntyre. “It’s like our third home down here, pretty much. I was joking around with him, he gave me the (Burlsworth), he can go win the Heisman.”
Falk, known as the consummate teammate, repeatedly said the Burlsworth trophy is a “total team award” and intends to have the hardware displayed in WSU’s football operations building.
“I’m just happy that we were able to get it,” the WSU QB said.
Falk has traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas, each of the last three seasons for the Burlsworth ceremony. Mayfield, Memphis receiver Anthony Miller and Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumgalli were the other three finalists for the 2017 award.
The Burlsworth Award is named after former Arkansas walk-on offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth, who became a three-year starter for the Razorbacks and was named an All-American before being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999. Eleven days after the NFL Draft, Burlsworth was killed in a car accident.
“You just watch that movie (about Burlsworth) and if you can’t feel something, then there’s something wrong with you,” Falk said in his acceptance speech. “The way Brandon lived his life and what it means to everybody in this room and what it means to many more outside of it and the impact that his life has made. … I just hope we as finalist can live on his legacy.”
The WSU quarterback walked on in 2013 and became the Cougars’ starter the following season when Connor Halliday went down with an injury in a home game against USC. Falk didn’t receive any scholarship offers coming out of Logan High School in Utah – partially because he transferred to Oaks Christian Academy in California as a sophomore and was ruled ineligible as a junior when he decided to move back to Utah.
Still, Falk went largely under the radar and the one scholarship offer he did have – from Idaho – was pulled when the Vandals changed coaching staffs.
WSU special teams coach Eric Mele was instrumental in bringing Falk to Pullman and spotted the Logan signal-caller after Mike Leach tasked him to find the best walk-on quarterback possible.
Falk thanked Mele when he came to the podium to deliver his acceptance speech at the Burlsworth ceremony, which was held at the Springdale Rotary Club in Fayetteville.
“Coach Mele, thanks for giving me a shot, thanks for taking a chance on a kid from Logan, Utah. I’ve had fun being able to do what we’ve done,” Falk said. “… At times in high school, I was kind of wondering why things were going that way and now I look back on it and it’s been the greatest blessing that I’ve had and it continues to shape me today. I just want to thank you so very much. Hopefully I can live on the legacy of the Burls way and thank you very much. God bless.”
Falk holds every major career passing record at WSU and in the Pac-12. He’s the conference’s all-time leader in passing yards (14,481), attempts (2,054), completions (1,403), touchdowns (119), completion percentage (68.3) and total offense (14,081).
He’s also won more games than any other WSU quarterback (27) and will try to secure his second bowl victory as the Cougars’ starter on Dec. 28 against Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.