"Now, Brandon, I've got to tell you something. This is the NFL. We're in an adult world here. I want you to understand that I'm very comfortable when players call me by my first name. My dad named me Howard, and you can call me that."
Burlsworth thought about it for a moment. "Yes sir," he said.
His last day was a beautiful day in Fayetteville. The sky was big and clear, and a spring breeze blew. Burlsworth joined Mike Bender's son Brent for lunch at Ryan's steak house. Brent said, "Burls, guess what? You're famous."
"No," Burlsworth replied softly, "I'm just me."
Bender's face lit up with a smile. "Brandon, you're going to be very, very rich. Think of that."
Burlsworth shrugged his big shoulders and lowered his head, as if it were of no great importance.
When they got up to leave, Burlsworth offered to pay, but Bender had a firm grasp on the check. "When I go up to see you play in Indianapolis, I'm going to make you take me to a place better than Ryan's," Bender told him.
"Brandon was happier that day than I'd ever seen him," Bender says, "and it made me feel good. He told me he couldn't believe how everything in his life had come together."
Burlsworth said goodbye to Bender at 1:30 p.m. That afternoon the Razorbacks football team was receiving SEC Western Division title rings in a private ceremony at the stadium, but Burlsworth, determined to have dinner with his mother and attend the Wednesday-night service at the Faith Assembly of God church in Harrison, decided to forgo the event. He piled into his little Subaru and started for home.
"The last thing Brandon said to me was, 'Mom, I love you,' " says Barbara. "The last thing I told him was, 'Sweetie, watch for old big trucks and pray.' It was always easy being Brandon's mother. He made it easy."