BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State junior linebacker Noel Cook was announced Tuesday as one of 69 nominees nationally for the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the outstanding FBS player who began his career as a walk-on and has shown outstanding performance on the field.
Cook, who actually enrolled early at App State as an invited walk-on, averages 6.3 tackles a game with 38 stops in six starts this year. After missing the opener at Penn State with an injury, he helped the Mountaineers pitch four straight second-half shutouts against Charlotte, Gardner-Webb, South Alabama and Arkansas State before Louisiana scored with 1:03 remaining in its loss at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Oct. 20.
Cook had a career-high 13 tackles and two tackles for loss in the Louisiana game. His 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks this season lead a defense that ranks statistically as one of the nation’s best units.
Cook, who received a scholarship before this season began, was still a walk-on when he made his first career start and recorded four tackles in a 34-0 shutout of Toledo in the 2017 Dollar General Bowl. He was a three-time all-conference performer who had 122 tackles as a senior at Reidsville High School, which reached the 2-A state title game that season. That year, in addition to recording four sacks and 12 tackles for loss, he also caught 34 passes for 612 yards and three touchdowns as a Rams receiver.
In the award’s ninth year, the Burlsworth Trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth, a former Arkansas walk-on and All-America offensive lineman whose life is the subject of the movie “Greater.” Without a single Division I scholarship offer, Burlsworth became a three-year starter at Arkansas and was eventually named an All-American in 1998.
He was selected with 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 who have limited opportunities.
The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, in conjunction with the Springdale Rotary Club, will host an awards ceremony on Dec. 3 in Arizona to honor the three finalists and announce the 2018 winner.