Tristan Okpalaugo Nominated for Burlsworth Trophy

Nov. 14, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Burlsworth Trophy and the presenting sponsor, the Springdale (Ark.) Rotary Club, announced Tuesday that Fresno State outside linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo is one of 50 players nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy.

The Trophy is given to the most outstanding football player in America who began his career as a walk-on. A walk-on is defined as a player who began his first season of participation with a Division I (FBS) football program without financial aid of any kind from his university's athletic department.

Okpalaugo enrolled as a Fresno State student in 2008 after graduating from Livermore's (Calif.) Granada High School, where he was the school's first three-sport lettermen (football, basketball and track and field).

Once arriving on the Fresno State campus, Okpalaugo decided he wanted to engage himself back in sports. In the fall of 2008, he tried out for the Bulldog track and field team, but was cut right after tryouts.

Next up, Okpalaugo tried walking on to the men's basketball team. Again he was cut.

Undeterred, Okpalaugo tried out for the Bulldog football team in the spring of 2009 and found his calling.

Okpalaugo saw limited action with the Bulldogs in his first two seasons, but took off his junior year, a season in which he earned a scholarship.

As a junior in 2011, Okpalaugo played in 12 games and made 10 starts at defensive end. He tied for second on the team last year with 8.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks.

This year after moving to outside linebacker in Fresno State's new 3-4 defense, the 6-6, 250-pound Okpalaugo is fourth on the team with 46 tackles, third with 9.5 tackles for a loss and tied for second with three sacks.

He also has one interception, which he returned 21 yards for a touchdown at Tulsa on Sept. 22, five quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

"We are extremely proud of this group of nominees for the 2012 Burlsworth Trophy," said Marty Burlsworth, CEO and founder of the Burlsworth Foundation and brother of Brandon. "All of these young men have worked very hard to get to where they are. The stories behind these players are incredible and they are all winners in my book."

Without one D1 scholarship offer, Brandon Burlsworth walked on to the Razorback team in 1994, worked his way to being a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. Burlsworth was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft, but was tragically killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children that have limited opportunities.

Springdale Rotary Club will host a banquet on Dec. 3 in Springdale, Ark. to honor the finalists and to announce the 2012 winner.

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