Kenny Willekes has won the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation’s top former walk-on, it was announced Monday.
A product of Rockford, Mich., Willekes walked on the Michigan State roster in 2015, played one game as a redshirt freshman in 2016, then exploded as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, a year in which he started 12 of 13 games and led the club in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (14.5).
As a junior, Willekes was a First Team All-American, winner of the Smith-Brown Award as the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year, and the first defensive end to win Michigan State’s Governor’s Award as the team MVP after again leading the team with 8.5 sacks and 20.5 TFLs.
Willekes again led the team in havoc reeked this fall, as he posted a career-high nine sacks while sitting 0.5 TFLs off the team lead with 14.5.
With one game left as a Spartan, Willekes owns 24.5 career sacks with a 49.5 tackles for loss.
The Burlsworth Trophy was created to honor former Arkansas offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth, whose nasty play and black-rimmed glasses made him one of the most popular offensive linemen of his day. He walked on the Razorbacks’ roster in 1994 and became a First Team All-SEC player by 1998. Taken by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft, Burlsworth was killed in an automobile accident just 11 days following the draft.
Created in 2010, previous winners include Baker Mayfield (2015-16), Luke Falk (2017) and Hunter Renfrow (2018).