There is an incredible amount of pressure that scholarship-athletes endure â€“ training in the weight room, and performing on the field, all while earning their degrees. From day one, scholarship-athletes must fulfill their duties by contributing to the team in the way their coach intended, whether that is by red-shirting and developing physically; by playing right away on special teams; or even playing in the starting line-up. When a university awards a high-school student a scholarship, that university is declaring that the studentâ€™s talents are worth an education at their institution.
However, that scholarship does not guarantee playing time. Even players that have â€œfull-ridesâ€ must push themselves to stand out from the pack and strive to impress the coaches who recruited them.
Imagine having to impress someone who doesnâ€™t necessarily want you thereâ€¦
In Division 1 football, there are many misconceptions about walk-on athletes: that theyâ€™re tackling dummies or just extra bodies. The truth of the matter is that not many players work harder than a walk-on.
To earn a spot on the team, then a spot on the field, then a scholarship â€“ the process of maturation of a walk-on is a seemingly never-ending cycle of hard work. Weights, breakfast, class, lunch, taping and treatment, film study, practice, dinner, study hall, and homework â€“ thatâ€™s a rough schedule for anyone playing college-level ball, and frankly, many walk-ons donâ€™t end up staying on the team throughout their eligibility.
However, there are a select few who go on to prove that theyâ€™re not only valuable on the field, but theyâ€™re worth an education at their university. In the Mack Brown era there were actually quite a few walk-ons who earned their way at the University of Texas including, Ryan Bailey (K), Marcus Griffin (S), Stevie Stigall (LB), and Dusty Mangum (K).
Mangum, of course, clinched the 2005 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan with a 37-yard field goal and is currently 3rd on the All-Time leading scorer list for Texas football (358 points). Marcus Griffin, brother of Michael Griffin, was awarded a scholarship, received the Outstanding Defensive Newcomer in 2006, and recorded a career 227 tackles, with 6 interceptions.
Currently, walk-ons Dylan Haines (S) and Ty Templin (WR) have both been awarded scholarships and are earning significant playing time for Coach Strong. Haines nabbed a starting safety spot last season, and played exceptionally well in the Orange and White Scrimmage. Templin earned time as a role player and is noted for his efforts on the practice field. He saw his initial career action against my alma-mater, North Texas, at the beginning of the 2014 season.
To Coach Strong the value in Haines and Templin may be the example they set as players who truly love the game â€“ Strong was a walk-on himself back at the University of Central Arkansas. Whatever the reason, Coach Strong has made it clear he doesnâ€™t care whether his guys are scholarship or not, the best player will play and if they play without a scholarship, you can bet they wonâ€™t be playing without one for long.