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Walk-ons put in time and dedication

By Emily Alexander
On September 20, 2012

Being a college football player takes a lot of time and dedication. Many players have motives, such as scholarships keeping them on the field and then there are those who have nothing but pure love for the game, the walk-on players.

Sophomore defensive back C.J. Girley, an accounting major of Pine Bluff, said, Playing college football for a D-1school was always my dream, and even though I didnt get a scholarship coming out of high school, I didnt let it stop me; I just kept striving to achieve my goal.

Each year the coaches hold tryouts for potential players that were not recruited from high school. The players who are selected join the team as walk-ons.

Walk-ons are vital to a successful program. The NCAA only allows so many scholarships, but it takes many more to have a winning team. Walk-ons get the team ready for the opponent each week in practice, and thats as important as any aspect of game week preparation, said Rhett Lashlee, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.

Walk-ons also provide great depth on offense and defense and contribute often on special teams. There are also many success stories of walk-ons earning scholarships and even being drafted into the NFL. I was a former walk-on player in college, and those players are just as much a part of our team and success as anyone. It takes a special person to be a walk-on.

The tryouts include various drills such as the 40-yard dash and the shuttle drill, as well as some paperwork.

Trevor Lewis a freshman physical education major of Mineral Springs, said the paperwork was the roughest part of the try out. Currently, Lewis is a red shirt walk-on.

College football is a lot faster, more physical, and longer than high school. I want to see how close I can get to being a player by December, he said.

According to tight end coach Eliah Drinkwitz, being a walk-on player is one of the toughest jobs on the field.

Walk-ons are the unsung heroes of every team and every victory. They work as hard as anyone on the team doing the dirty work of preparing our offense, defense and special teams looks each week running the scout teams. They are paying their own way for the opportunity to represent the university on the field. Its an awesome challenge, and one that just a few can meet, Drinkwitz said.

Since making the team a year ago, Girley, one of three walk-ons left from his tryout, is the only walk-on player who receives playing time.

It was a total shock that I got to play, but I did work extremely hard, and hard work pays off. Plus, I put my trust in God, not in man, he said.

Girley contributed 10 minutes of playing time and a tackle to the Red Wolves 33-28 win against the Memphis Tigers, and he hopes to be able to continue to grow as a player and work toward achieving a scholarship.

My goals for the rest of my career are to earn a scholarship and eventually work my way up to a starter, Girley said.

Tight ends coach Dean Jackson said that there is a reality for that kind of achievement.

Some [walk-ons] are good to be put on scholarship after their fourth semester. They take some of the load off of our starters during the week. We want them to know they are just important as our scholarship players.

Girley has advice for new walk-ons and those considering trying out in the future.

Never quit something you start no matter how tough it gets. You have to completely love football in order to do it because its a rough and long journey. You have to work twice as hard as a scholarship player and understand nothing will be given to you, he said.

A quote Girley lives by daily is Talent is God-given, so be humble; fame is man-given, so be grateful; and conceit is self-given, so be careful.

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