Vander Esch A Burlsworth Trophy Nominee
Nov. 2, 2017

  • 2017 Burlsworth Trophy Nominees

    BOISE, Idaho - Boise State redshirt junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was announced as one of 63 nominees for the 2017 Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on.

    The award is named for Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on at the University of Arkansas in 1994, became a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998.

    This season, Vander Esch has established himself as one of the top defenders in the FBS and the Mountain West, ranking second in the conference in total tackles (9.9 per game) and solo tackles (6.4 per game) while ranking seventh and sixth, respectively, in those categories nationally. He is tied for seventh in the Mountain West with two interceptions, and leads or co-leads Boise State's defense in tackles (79), interceptions (two), and forced fumbles (two). Led in part by Vander Esch's play, the Bronco defense ranks 18th in the FBS with just 308.6 yards allowed per game, and seventh in the country in rush defense, yielding just 102.0 rushing yards per game.

    Vander Esch, a native of Riggins, Idaho, came to Boise State after a standout three-sport career at Salmon River High School. A quarterback and middle linebacker for Salmon River's 8-man football squad, Vander Esch helped the team to 1A Division II state titles from 2013-14, being named Idaho's 1A Division II Player of the Year. On the basketball court, he helped Salmon River to consecutive state titles as a junior and senior, averaging 29.4 points and 11.1 rebounds in his final season.

    Joining the Broncos as a walk-on prior to the 2014 season, Vander Esch redshirted his true freshman campaign and was awarded a scholarship in April 2015. He went on to make 20 tackles with a sack and a fumble recovery as a redshirt freshman in 2015, before making 27 tackles and an interception in 2016 despite missing six games due to injury.

    Boise State (6-2, 4-0 MW) puts its unbeaten Mountain West mark on the line this Saturday, hosting Nevada at Albertsons Stadium in a 5 p.m. contest that will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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