PROVO — Dax Milne nearly made history at BYU.
The former walk-on had a breakout 2020 season at wide receiver, but that isn't the type of history he nearly clinched Monday afternoon.
Milne was one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, an award given annually since 2010 to college football's top player whose career began as a walk-on. Appearing alongside fellow finalists Grant Morgan from Arkansas and Jimmy Morrissey from Pitt in a virtual ceremony streamed online Monday, the Bingham High product explained why his junior season was such a breakout year, when he nearly tripled his previous production of 354 receiving yards the two years prior to lead BYU to an 11-1 season and top-20 national ranking.
"I think the biggest difference this year was I was given more opportunities to make plays, with so many seniors moving on," Milne said. "I had to fill in their shoes, and I'm just grateful for the chance to play."
In the end, Milne finished in the top three. Morrissey, the four-year starting offensive line from Pitt, earned college football's top walk-on honor with award winners such as former Clemson standout and current Las Vegas Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow.
But Milne's career is worthy of respect, even if he fell just short of Monday's trophy named in honor of former Arkansas walk-on Brandon Burlsworth, who rose up to become a three-year starter, 1998 All-American and No. 63 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts before his tragic death in a car accident 11 days later.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior who prepped at Bingham High capped his three-year career with 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the 17th receiver in BYU history to compile 1,000 yards in a single season.
"It's super nice to see all the hard work pay off for him," said Milne's father Darren, who was an all-conference baseball player at BYU and drafted by the Detroit Tigers. "What's so great about the scholarship is that wasn't the end of it. Obviously, it was a huge goal.
"But one of the things he said after he received it was, 'I'm going to earn this scholarship every single day.'"
Milne was a two-time all-state selection at Bingham High, but received little recruiting interest beyond scholarship offers to local FCS programs Weber State and Southern Utah.
"I hit my growth spurt late in my high school career," said Milne, who won three state titles with the Miners. "I only landed two FCS offers, which I'm grateful for, but I always wanted to play at the highest level.
"I was given the opportunity at BYU as a walk-on, and I took that opportunity and ran with it."
Milne, who has already declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, finished his career with 1,542 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also returning kicks and punts. But even after earning a scholarship, he still kept the "walk-on mindset" common in most programs — including BYU.
"He carries that chip on his shoulder for being overlooked coming out of high school," said BYU receiver Brayden Cosper, who also played with Milne at Bingham. "That's how he plays on the field; he makes sure that people know who he is and what he's about."
Perhaps his biggest legacy, though, is for the future. As BYU continues to fill out its walk-on program, lending opportunities to other players beyond the maximum number of 25 scholarship spots awarded to each FBS team annually, local high school players have already kept an eye geared toward the Cougars with a chance to live up to Milne's expectations.
"There are a lot of people who are looking up in the local area, saying, 'I can be the next Dax Milne,'" Darren Milne said. "He's already making a big impact."