by Rob Joyce
Walk-ons have it a little harder than scholarship athletes do at the Division-I level. They attend every practice and film session, train just as hard as their teammates and go through college having to pay their way, often knowing that the reward might be a couple of plays in the final seconds if the game is out of hand. So when the time comes that a team has an extra scholarship, a popular trend is to not only give it to the walk-on (that’s fairly common), but now everyone is doing it in a creative way.
From coast-to-coast this training camp season, here are some of the more creative ways in which teams have surprised their walk-ons with the ultimate prize: a college scholarship.
Not only is Bill Cecil a walk-on at an FBS school – challenging enough as it is – but he’s also on the Mountaineers’ academic honor roll. All of that hard work was rewarded earlier this month, as coach Scott Satterfield sang Cecil’s praises about his attitude and hard work, then gave him a scholarship.
This one happened in the spring, but it still counts, considering how awesome it is. Obviously earning a scholarship isn’t just a time of joy for the player, but for the family, too. That’s why, around Mother’s Day, Pirates’ coach Scottie Montgomery wanted to tell Kiante Anderson’s mom himself that her son was earning a scholarship. Better yet, mom got to deliver the news to him.
The most creative one in a long while, the Golden Gophers volunteer at a local children’s hospital. Making a particular impact with one patient was Justin Juenemann, a walk-on special teams player. New head coach PJ Fleck had that patient come and tell his story, singling out Juenemann for his volunteer work, then added the awesome use of a t-shirt cannon to surprise him with a scholarship.
NC State: The Wolf Pack put two walk-ons on scholarship, and gave them each their own special announcement. First came Brady Bodine, who, according to coach Dave Doeren, has become the team’s best special teams player.
The next night they shocked Peter Daniel, a fifth-year walk-on who spoke in front of the team before he was given the surprise announcement.
Washington State (Video at top of this post):
A fifth-year senior, DeRider has slowly worked his way into the Cougars’ defensive rotation, coming up with a sack and an interception last season. Asked to speak in front of the team by head coach Mike Leach, DeRider talked about what it’s like to be a walk-on before Leach sprung the surprise on the linebacker.