Edited by Jaime Evers
Many talented high school football players do not get the opportunity to receive scholarship offers from big Division I schools, but luckily, they still have the ability to walk-on to their dream school, such as Alabama. The term walk-on is used in sports, usually in American college athletics, to describe an athlete who becomes part of a team without being recruited beforehand or awarded an athletic scholarship. This results in the differentiation between “walk-on” players and “scholarship” players. This process is more laborious than the recruitment process because you are trying to sell yourself to the coaches and prove that you’re good enough to play at the highest level, whereas recruits at the DI level are usually sought after by the coaches. These athletes most likely have been on the coaches radar during their high school career. The number one question players have is “How do I go about becoming a walk-on?” It is a hard process with a lot of uncertainty.
Alabama football player, Michael Collins, completed his walk-on process last year and is now a member of the #2 ranked football team in the nation, Alabama! Michael states,
“The most important part about becoming a walk-on is being confident. Do not be afraid or timid; go into the process trusting in yourself. This process is arduous for some, so being confident and trusting in your ability will help you through the process and make it a bit easier for you in the long run. Also, keep a positive attitude throughout the entire process. Things may get difficult, or they may not go your way, but if you stay positive, you would stress less and ultimately perform better.”
Related school rating: University of Alabama
Contacting the Team
Michael was very persistent when it came time to get ready to walk-on to one of the greatest football teams in the nation. The first step was for him to figure out who to get in contact with so he could begin the walk-on process. He advises players:
“Get in contact with the college player personnel, however, the easiest way to get in contact with the right people is calling or visiting the athletic facilities at the school that you are looking to play for. From there, the faculty can put you in contact with the right people and they can give you the information that you will need to start. It may be intimidating to try to get in contact with coaches and staff at bigger DI schools, but as I’ve stated earlier, you have to be confident and do what you have to do.”
Having the confidence to step foot on the field is a feat in itself, knowing that you need to have the endurance, strength, flexibility, mental toughness, and the overall stamina to keep up with some of the best college football players in the country. Understand that before you waste the coaches’ time, you better be in top physical condition. If you are not in shape, you will not make the cut. You should be working out at least three to four times a week, and you should be running long distances, practicing agility, and doing sprints at least four times per week. Michael recounts: “During the tryout, you usually run a 40 and do football drills that are combine-like, so you need to prepare accordingly.” He also states, “You will be evaluated in the weight room, conditioning, and most importantly how you play on the field.”
During the tryouts, it is imperative that you do the best you possibly can and try your best to stand out. Make your performance memorable so the coaches will remember you once they begin making decisions. Guys rarely make the team after the three-day tryout process due to not having the abilities needed, not being confident, or just not being ready, but if you are to make it onto the team, the work has just begun.
Related coach rating: Nick Saban
You Made the Team, so Now What?
When you make the team, you will be evaluated based on your ability to play the game, so make sure you continue to keep up with the A team, hit the gym, and practice your position. Now that you made the team your mental toughness has to kick in, and you have to stay confident and find a way to stand out. You might be sitting on the bench for a while, but this will depend on how much work you put into your sport; the hours count, so put them in. Be prepared for when the coach calls your name to go out on the field because you never know when that could be. Be prepared; it’s a must!
Lastly, everyone wants to know if a walk-on can receive scholarships. The answer is yes, they do. If you work hard enough and play well, coaches may reward you with a scholarship. However, not everyone receives them. Michael’s advice for walk-ons who are trying to get a scholarship is, “You have to be perfect and cannot mess up if you want a scholarship. Be patient with them as well; it takes time for coaches to give walk-ons looks.” All in all, if this is the route you want to take, make sure you’re a confident, hard-working team player and that you’re prepared. It is imperative that you show the coaches your best self.