SPRINGDALE, Ark. - Like all former walk-ons, Luke Falk is familiar with rejection. So he was probably OK with failing to win the Burlsworth Trophy the past two years.
This time, he did win it.
The record-setting Washington State quarterback aced out two-time winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma on Monday to claim the award presented annually to the top college football player who began his career as a walk-on.
The WSU senior was a finalist the past two years when the honor went to Mayfield, who is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday but watched the Burlsworth go to someone else this time.
Falk fell off the recruiting radar when he switched high schools, decided to switch back and wound up having to sit out his junior year at Logan (Utah) High. He was prepared to accept a financial-aid package from Cornell (which doesn’t award athletic scholarships) in 2013 when WSU coach Mike Leach extended him a walk-on opportunity.
He earned a scholarship within his first year with the Cougars and landed a starting role as an injury replacement as a second-year freshman in 2014.
Three years later, with one game remaining in his college career, he owns Pac-12 records for passing yards (14,486), passing touchdowns (119), total offense (14,081), plays (2,306), completions (1,404), attempts (2,055) and 300-yard games (30). He also owns the WSU record for wins by a starting quarterback with 27.
In the 2017 regular season, Falk led the Pac-12 with 30 TD throws and ranked sixth in the country with 3,593 passing yards while guiding the Cougars to a 9-3 record and a No. 21 national ranking. He twice earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.
The Cougars play Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 at San Diego.
Washington State assistant coach Eric Mele, instrumental in recognizing Falk’s potential and getting him to WSU, accompanied the quarterback to Springdale for the Burlsworth presentation. It’s the first national award for the Cougars since Deone Bucannon took the Elite Defensive Back Award in 2013.
The school also learned Monday that Falk and offensive lineman Cole Madison have been invited to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 at Mobile, Ala.