Vander Esch A Burlsworth Semifinalist
Nov. 7, 2017

BOISE, Idaho - Boise State redshirt junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was announced as one of 10 semifinalists for the 2017 Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on. Vander Esch was selected from a field of 63 nominees.

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.

Fans will be allowed to vote for their favorite player via the “GREATER” Fan Vote beginning today at noon MT. Fans are limited to one vote per day, and the voting for the semifinalist round will conclude Nov. 12 at 10 p.m. MT. Voting can be accessed at and will begin with the top 10 semifinalists and continue as the selection committee announces the three Burlsworth Trophy finalists on Nov. 14. Finalists will be honored and the winner of the 2017 Burlsworth Trophy announced Dec. 4, at a banquet in Springdale, Ark., hosted by the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, in conjunction with the Springdale Rotary Club.

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 (9.6 per game) and solo tackles (6.2 per game) while ranking 16th and ninth, respectively, in those categories nationally. He has made two interceptions this season, and leads Boise State's defense in tackles (86), and forced fumbles (two). Led in part by Vander Esch's play, the Bronco defense ranks 15th in the FBS with just 307.9 yards allowed per game, and eighth in the country in rush defense, yielding just 106.4 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 (7-2, 5-0 MW) heads to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State (6-4, 4-2 MW) Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

2017 Burlsworth Trophy Semifinalists
Leighton Vander Esch, R-Jr. (LB) - Boise State
Austin Corbett, Sr. (OL) - Nevada
Aaron Davis, Sr. (DB) - Georgia
Luke Falk, Sr. (QB) - Washington State
Troy Fumagalli, Sr. (TE) - Wisconsin
Hayden Hurst, Jr. (TE) - South Carolina
Patrick Laird, Jr. (RB) - California
Baker Mayfield, Sr. (QB) - Oklahoma
Anthony Miller, Sr. (WR) - Memphis
Trent Tanking, Sr. (LB) - Kansas State

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