Most walk-ons don't end up being celebrities like Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger.
|Casey Evans goes from walk-on to second team All-MWC. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
After scouring all 119 Division I-A programs, here are a handful of players who have earned scholarships by contribution to their teams:
Casey Evans, Utah: It's not too often players can thank a torn ACL for changing their lives, but Evans can.
The starting safety for the Utes had signed a letter-of-intent with Dixie State College -- then a junior college program in St. George, Utah -- but tore his ACL playing lacrosse during his senior year of high school. He couldn't play football, so he just decided to go to Utah, which was only 15 minutes from home.
He walked-on and redshirted the first semester.
"I was hoping to play special teams, but there was a safety at the time who was a former walk-on (Dave Revill). He inspired me and I said, 'If he can do it, I can do it,'" said Evans.
His first real season would be 2003, the same year new coach Urban Meyer was hired to replace Ron McBride.
"Coach Meyer got hired and I had a meeting with him," said Evans. "I wasn't very strong and he asked, 'You are on the team?' He had to talk to coach Kyle Whittingham (defensive coordinator at the time) to see if it was OK."
It turned out to be OK and Evans played every game the next two seasons on special teams. Not only did he make the team, but got to be a part of the 12-0 team that won the Fiesta Bowl in 2004. All that was left was to earn a scholarship.
"You have to be here two years to earn a scholarship and that was right as Coach Meyer signed with Florida," said Evans. "But he made sure that I got my scholarship before he left because he felt I was deserving."
Last season Evans made his biggest mark on the team, earning second-team All-Mountain West with 89 tackles and five interceptions.
"It's cool and exciting to look back on. Tearing my ACL was a blessing in disguise."
Erick Jackson, UNLV: It was a mistake in high school that forced him to walk on, but things have turned out just fine for the starting running back.
|Erick Jackson has a big opportunity as a senior. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
But despite his successful high-school career, no schools came calling, and it was Jackson's own fault.
"I was one of those kids who didn't have any idea how recruiting went. I didn't send out any tapes until the last second. A lot of schools told me the same thing -- 'Why didn't you send out a tape earlier?' Unfortunately I had to find out the hard way."
Jackson didn't have many options and wasn't about to play at a low-level school or junior college.
"At the time coming out of high school, I was a good player and I couldn't go to junior college after what I did in high school," said Jackson. "I wanted to prove to everybody, including myself, that I could play Division I."
So being just three hours from the UNLV campus, Jackson decided to walk on under head coach John Robinson in 2002.
"I'm not your typical back at 5-6 and John Robinson plays those, so I was trying to maximize me getting a scholarship," said Jackson. "I also wanted to be close to home where my family could come to the games."
Like most walk-ons, he redshirted his first season and then played special teams the following year. He received a scholarship after the 2003 season and in 2004 saw his first action at running back.
Last season, he became the starting running back, rushing for a team-leading 673 yards and six touchdowns. But Jackson had some rough times, rushing for only 134 yards combined in four of UNLV's biggest conference games, losses to Wyoming, Air Force, BYU and TCU.
"It was harder dealing with being the starter, because I didn't think about where I had come from," said Jackson. "My mom reminds me of that, to remember where I came from and I walked on. I didn't do so well last year and I was getting down on myself and complaining about not performing. She told me, 'You came as a walk-on, first year of collegiate football and first time being a starter in three years.' My mother makes me remember that. It definitely helps and grounds a person."
Heading into his senior season, Jackson is looking forward to his best season, but at the same time isn't forgetting his past.
"I definitely think about the walk-ons, I don't let them know that, but I definitely consider them, I've been there and my girlfriend is a walk-on on the volleyball team, who just received a scholarship."
Jordy Nelson, WR, Kansas State: Nelson grew up close to the Kansas State campus as a Wildcats fan. He came to school as a defensive back, but didn't see any action in 2003 or 2004.
During the spring of last season, coaches asked him to switch to wide receiver. The 6-foot-3 walk-on obliged.
It was definitely the right decision. Nelson led the team in receptions (45), yards (669) and touchdowns (8). He earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.
Ramel Meekins, DT, Rutgers: The starting defensive tackle for the Scarlet Knights was your typical high school player who got lost in the shuffle. He was a good football player, but a better wrestler. And at 5-11 was too short to draw recruiters. He ended up walking on at Rutgers and last season finished fifth on the team with 63 tackles and 9.0 sacks. His 15 tackles for a loss ranked 42nd in the NCAA.
Alexis Serna, K, Oregon State: Serna was awarded the 2005 Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation's best kicker. His first game against LSU was a memorable one, but for all the wrong reasons. Serna missed three extra points, including one in overtime, allowing LSU to escape with a 22-21 victory. Since then, he has made 61 consecutive extra points and is ranked as the NCAA active leader for career field goal percentage at 83.3 percent.
Daniel Sepulveda, P, Baylor: Sepulveda came to Baylor as a walk-on linebacker. One day at practice, the coaches asked players to try out for punter, Sepulveda raised his hand and gave it a shot. He hadn't kicked since junior high, but won the coaches over and became the starting punter. In 2004, he won the Ray Guy Award for the best punter and this past season finished third in the nation in punting average.
Jake Hutton, LB, Utah State: One of the most successful walk-ons last season, finishing with 87 tackles, ranking third in the nation for tackles by a freshman with 7.9 per game. Hutton also earned third-team freshman All-American honors.
Dustin Duclo, LB, Western Michigan: Walked on in 2004, participating on the scout team. But in 2005 ended up starting at linebacker because of injuries. In the third game of the year he had two interceptions and finished fourth on the team with 58 tackles.
Andrew Browning, DT, Boise State: He walked on to the Broncos in 2002 and slowly worked his way up the depth chart. In 2004, he earned honorable mention All-WAC honors, but it was last year that he finally broke out. He earned second-team All-WAC honors with 35 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Tra Battle, S, Georgia: He came to the school as a quarterback, but ended up switching over to safety. He finished third on the team with 71 tackles and two interceptions and is a prime All-SEC candidate this season.
Nick Jarvis, snapper, Wake Forest: The junior originally came to Wake Forest as a tight end, but ended up on special teams. He has made 135 consecutive perfect snaps to last year's Ray Guy Award winner, punter Ryan Plackemeier. Now he's become too valuable on special teams to get on the field as a tight end and risk injury.
Ryan Baum, special teams, Iowa State: He missed the last seven games of the season with a knee injury, but still was named the team's most outstanding special teams player for the second year in a row. Now that's respect! Not only finished with 30 special teams tackles, but also averaged 11.8 yards on nine punt returns.