UA football: Walk-ons helping Cats win
October 07, 2014 10:15 pm • By Daniel Berk
On one side was Hroniss Grasu — Oregon’s 6-foot-3-inch, 297-pound anchor on the offensive line.
Inches from his face was Parker Zellers — Arizona’s “Rudy” — a 6-foot-nothing, 200-pound-nothing walk-on nose guard.
Grasu, a 2013 first-team All-American at center, is a likely early-round pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Zellers is hoping he gets the first pick in his fantasy football draft next year.
To say this was a mismatch going into the game would have been an understatement — a big one.
“They probably looked at little Parker Zellers and said, ‘What’s going on?’” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “But Parker is tough, and he played tough against Oregon.”
Zellers finished with five tackles and a fumble recovery against the Ducks. He hung tough against Grasu and Oregon’s offensive line for four quarters. Zellers played the majority of the game at nose guard over junior Jeff Worthy — who’s not yet 100 percent after sustaining an ankle injury against Cal.
Zellers, a redshirt freshman who is really listed at 6 foot 1 inch and 247 pounds, has found his niche on Arizona’s defensive line.
And he’s not the only walk-on making an early-season impact for Rodriguez’s team.
Running back Terris Jones-Grigsby, a former walk-on who’s now on scholarship, had 115 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the 31-24 win over the then-No.2 ranked Ducks. He also added four catches for 95 yards.
Safety Jared Tevis, also a former walk-on, tied for the team lead with eight tackles.
Kicker Casey Skowron, who, like Zellers, is still a walk-on, hit all of his extra points and connected on a 28-yard field goal.
The production from so many current and former walk-ons for the Wildcats is no fluke. Counting Skowron and punter Drew Riggleman, the UA started five former or current walk-ons against the Ducks. Six more played in a reserve role.
This is how Rodriguez, a former walk-on at West Virginia, wants it.
“I don’t think we can win a league championship or win a Rose Bowl without walk-ons,” Rodriguez said this week. “Particularly in our program, they will always be important because I’m a former walk-on. We have to have guys like Parker and Terris and Jared.”
At Arizona, walk-ons have the same responsibilities and expectations as scholarship players.
“If you talk to our guys — walk-ons, scholarship guys, they’re all treated the same,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no difference. I’ve seen places before where they’ve had different locker rooms for walk-on guys and scholarship guys. Are you kidding me? That would never happen. Our walk-ons are going to have a great deal of respect here from everybody in our program.”
Here’s a look at three of the biggest walk-on contributors for the Wildcats.
Position: Running back
Season stats: 45 carries, 267 yards, three touchdowns; seven catches, 115 yards.
How he ended up at Arizona: The younger half-brother of former UA running back Nic Grigsby, Jones-Grigsby was recruited to be a walk-on by Mike Stoops and his staff. The running back didn’t have any other FBS offers, and has said he’d likely would have run track at Cal-Poly had he not walked-on at Arizona.
How he earned playing time: Jones-Grigsby was a solid special teams contributor for the Wildcats in 2012 and 2013, and caught the eye of Rodriguez and running backs coach Calvin Magee. He competed for the starting running back spot in training camp and beat out Adonis Smith, Jared Baker and others to split time with freshman Nick Wilson.
Season stats: 45 tackles (second best on the team), 1½ tackles-for-loss, one interception.
How he ended up at Arizona: Tevis had a few offers to continue his football career at some FCS schools, but didn’t have many other options. Like Jones-Grigsby, he chose to walk-on under Stoops’ watch. He redshirted his first year, but by the time he was a sophomore, Tevis was a full-time starter for the Wildcats. He’s started the past 27 games he’s played in and is considered by players and coaches as one of the primary leaders on defense.
How he earned playing time: It’s a similar story to Jones-Grigsby — but a little quicker. After a redshirt season, Tevis became a regular contributor on special teams. Combine his performance with Arizona being short on safeties, and Tevis earned major playing time.
Position: Nose guard
Season stats: Nine tackles, one-half tackle-for-loss, one fumble recovery.
How he ended up at Arizona: Zellers, a product of Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, only had FCS offers out of high school. A couple of UA coaches saw Zellers play in person while recruiting other players, and offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on. He gladly accepted.
How he earned playing time: Zellers broke out during spring drills. The undersized nose guard held his own against Arizona’s starters on the offensive line and gained the coaches’ attention. He carried over that momentum to training camp and again impressed. He was pressed into duty as the Wildcats had to deal with injuries and ineligibility at the nose guard spot.
The Biletnikoff Award is given to the top wide receiver in the country. UA’s Austin Hill was named to the list before the season.
A look at the 10 current and former walk-ons who played for the Arizona Wildcats against Oregon.
Name Position Year Role Where he’s from
Blake Brady Safety Sr. Defense/special teams Orange, California
Chase Gorham Long snapper Sr. Special teams Scottsdale
Johnny Jackson Cornerback Jr. Special teams San Diego
Terris Jones-Grigsby Running back Sr. Offense/special teams Long Beach, California
Abraham Mendivil Wide receiver Fr. Special teams Phoenix
Brendan Murphy Cornerback Sr. Special teams New Hartford, New York
Drew Riggleman Punter Jr. Special teams Tucson
Jared Tevis Safety Sr. Defense Tucson
Blair Tushaus Tight end Sr. Offense/special teams Scottsdale
Parker Zellers Nose guard Fr. Defense Scottsdale
Andre Hunt’s sack helped Rutgers make a late defensive stand to beat Navy. (Photo: Tanya Breen/Staff photographer )
WALK-ON SAVES GAME FOR RUTGERS
Rutgers football’s Andre Hunt’s defensive debut is memorable
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Andre Hunt’s sack for Rutgers in the final minute of the fourth quarter Saturday against Navy wasn’t just one of the biggest plays of the game. It was the biggest defensive play of his life.
What ranks second? Probably either of the other two tackles he made in the game because his collegiate debut marked the first defensive game of his career, including the high school and prep school levels.
“In high school I just played running back the whole time,” Hunt said after remembering he played some linebacker during his Pop Warner days. “I never got the details of playing defense.”
Hunt joined Rutgers last summer as a walk-on halfback out of Hargrave Military Academy – the same school that produced Rutgers teammates L.J. Liston and Djwany Mera – and was moved to wide receiver and then to safety. He redshirted in 2013 before playing mostly on special teams in two of the first three games.
In theory, Hunt was prepared for a moment like the one that came in the first quarter of Rutgers’ 31-24 victory. Free safety Delon Stephenson suffered an undisclosed injury (he did not return) and a defense relying on extra safeties to stop the triple-option offense called upon Hunt to take a bigger role.
“I wasn’t expecting it, either. It caught me by surprise,” Hunt said. “When I got out there I just had to keep my cool, trust my technique, believe what the coaches told me to do and just do it.”
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said he expected the type of game where some role players might have to make a difference and Hunt’s teammates weren’t surprised to see him answer the call.
“He is a guy who comes in with a blue-collar-type mentality and knows all his assignments,” said redshirt senior defensive end David Milewski, who had an up-close look at the sack. “You have a couple Andre Hunts, man, you’ll be in good shape.”
The Eagan, Minn. native’s big moment came just when it appeared Navy was going to tie the score.
On second-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Hunt came free off an edge blitz and dragged down quarterback Keeenan Reynolds for a 10-yard loss. Two plays later, Rutgers completed a defensive stand.
“It was a big moment, a key point in the game for us to get the ‘W,’” said Hunt, who admitted he will probably watch the highlight “quite a few times.” “(On the snap, I was thinking) just to stay calm. Don’t get too excited. Watch the quarterback. If it happens, just make the play.”
Coming through in that spot reminded Hunt of advice he received from his father Leon, who showed his own versatility by playing both inside linebacker and running back at Wisconsin from 1986-90.
“I was very ready,” Hunt said. “My dad always told me, ‘You never know.’ He said during his time a lot of guys went down and guys had to step up. I really took his advice – and the coaches’ – just to be ready.”
Leon Hunt grew up in Trenton and attended Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville. It was he who first introduced his son to Rutgers football games.
“I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to come here and play for Rutgers,” Hunt said. “I didn’t know too much about it (the school). Out in Minnesota people were like, ‘What’s Rutgers? Never heard of that before.’ I’m like, ‘A Big Ten school in New Jersey.’”
And a Big Ten school in New Jersey with a surprising 3-1 record secured in part by Andre Hunt.
Staff Writer Ryan Dunleavy: firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk-on Lane Hovey steps up
Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 7:40 pm, Sun Sep 14, 2014.
Notes: Walk-on Lane Hovey steps up; Kalu shines in start; Gregory sees 'dirty' play By Rich Kaipust and Jon Nyatawa / World-Herald staff writers The Omaha World-Herald
FRESNO, Calif. — Nebraska’s health issues in its receiving corps resulted in an unlikely contributor Saturday.
Sophomore walk-on Lane Hovey caught a career-high three passes for 48 yards in the 55-19 win at Fresno State. The biggest of those was a quick slant from Tommy Armstrong on third-and-3 from the NU 9 — after FSU had just cut its deficit to 34-12 — that went for 29 yards.
OU football: LB Caleb Gastelum earns scholarship from Bob Stoops
Oklahoma walk-on linebacker Caleb Gastelum is a walk-on no more.
The senior from Claremore was awarded the game ball and a scholarship following the Sooners' 52-7 win over Tulsa on Saturday. The OU Football Twitter account posted that coach Bob Stoops made the announcement following the win.
Gastelum recorded his first career sack and interception against the Golden Hurricane. The 6-foot-2, 217 pounder also tied Eric Striker for the team lead in tackles against Tulsa with eight.
by Erik Horne Published: September 6, 2014
Oklahoma Sooner Caleb Gastelum (45) deflects a pass intended for Kenneth Dixon during a college football game between OU and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., 8/31/14
OKLAHOMA UNIVERSITY WALK-ON STEPS UP
In College Football's first weekend of the 2014 season, Walk-On linebacker Caleb Gastelum of Oklahoma University was tapped to go in early in the first quarter and played the rest of the game helping to lead the Sooners to a victory over LA. Tech. Click link below to read the story by Jenni Carlson, sports columnist at The Oklahoman.
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 31, 2014
Author and former USC Trojan, Tim Lavin illustrates the incredible phenomenon of college football’s Walk-On Athletes. Depicting the ugly, the bad and the good, his new book is about survival, education, mental toughness and character building.
Tim further represents the drudgery most college athletes experience when they are not on scholarship and thus labeled as a “Walk-On.” The realities are seldom discussed but most certainly exist amongst walk-ons collectively, including hundreds of well-known walk-on’s such as Clay Matthews and JJ Watt. Each echo the importance of heart, determination, patience, and sheer will, necessary to conquer massive amounts of abuse, while willfully paying the price for a chance to prove they can play on Saturday.
“Walk-On U” is an educational tool for high school student-athletes pondering the next step should their dreams of earning a college scholarship not come true. For those who choose to walk-on, this book is about about achievingmany humble victories, both on and off the field, as well as celebrating those unwavering underdogs and their triumphs.
Walk-On U book cover
What EVERY Current and Future WALK-ON Should Know about the WALK-ON WORLD - the good, the bad, and the ugly...
WALK-ON U: The Shocking Truth Behind Football's Unsung Underdogs is for every walk-on, male and female, in all sports. This book sheds light on the reality of being a walk-on and what you can do to mentally prepare, endure, and rise to the top!
If you are currently a walk-on in college sports, this book is for YOU!
If you are current a high school student athlete considering walking-on to a program even if you don't get a scholarship, this book is for YOU!
If you are a parent of a current or future walk-on, this book is for YOU!
WALK-ON U TM
The Inclusion Petition
“Walk-on's should be allowed to eat at training table during the season and during Spring Football without having to pay for it.”
- Lou Holtz, College Football Head Coach
"I am so glad you are doing this book. It is time to shed light on the plight of walk-ons."
- Dabo Swinney, Head Football Coach, Clemson
"It's doesn't make much sense. In an age where every university is in an arms race to build multi-million dollar athletic facilities, and their coaches are earning sever figure salaries, and the walk-ons who are just trying to improve can't eat with their teammates after practice?"
- Terry Donahue, Former Head Football Coach, UCLA
"HE" was a Walk-On?? Find out Who was a Walk-On, only to rise to the NFL or elite Coaching status...
Shocking Stories from Walk-Ons of yesterday, how they overcame the odds to succeed at the highest level, and what needs to be done today to change the unbelievable conditions walk-ons endure.
There are scores of riveting stories from College Football's biggest names! Here are just some of those members in the book and members of the WALK-ON U Hall of Fame.
|Lou Holtz||Matt Rhule||Clay Matthews||Karl Mecklenburg||Daryl Washington||Mike Sherrard||Margus Hunt|
|Terry Donahue||Tony Levine||Gary Brackett||Jordy Nelson||Terry Glenn||Aeneas Williams||Darren Woodson|
|Dabo Swinney||Kevin Sumlin||Thomas Howard||Mike Sherrard||Rich Coady||Scott Fujita||Brandon Weeden|
|Jim Mora, Jr||Rick Neuisel||JJ Watt||Jim Leonhard||Everson Walls||Santana Moss||Christian Okoye|
|Shaun O'Hara||Clay Matthews||Logan Mankins||Dennis Pitta||Daryl Washington||Ziggy Ansah||Jared Abbrederis|
|Urban Meyer||Bret Bielema||Thomas Smith||Matt Tobin||Scott Shanle||Jarrod Pughsley|
|NAME||HEAD COACH||WALK-ON AT||POSITION|
|Dabo Swinney||Clemson||Alabama||Wide Receiver|
|Kevin Sumlin||Texas A&M||Purdue||Linebacker|
|Tony Levine||Houston||Minnesota||Wide Receiver|
|Matt Rhule||Temple||Penn State||Linebacker|
|Jim Mora||UCLA||Washington||Defensive Back|
|Urban Meyer||Ohio State||Cincinnati||Safety|
|Bret Bielema||Arkansas||Iowa||Nose Guard|
|Aaron Davis||U of Georgia||S||RS Freshman|
|Caleb Gastelum||U of Oklahoma||ILB||Senior|