NCAA Football – The Life of a Walk-On

Alyssa Freeman

As a retired college athlete, I have learned a lot especially while now being a college coach. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to get offered an athletic scholarship, and that is exactly what happened to me. I was one of the few to get offered a college athletic scholarship at my high school for a specific sport. There were only four of us that signed to a college institution the day of signing and it was a day like no other! Upon arriving to campus was just like a normal day except my parents were no longer a drive around the corner, they were seven hours south of where I was. Being a college athlete not only about learning who you are as an individual, but it is a very busy lifestyle you must adjust to with preseason, in season, and postseason workouts and practices. But thanks to those athletic scholarships I didn’t have to worry about having a job to pay for school or relying on my parents who were miles away. However, it is not the same luxury and life for others.

A lot of students who were superstars in high school may not have gotten offered a scholarship to an NCAA or NAIA or NJCAA institution. Unfortunately, those students have to pay for their textbooks, tuition, and their dorms, and it is not cheap. Working at a college currently, I learn more each and every day, and working at a Division III school I learn more than I ever thought I could. At a Division III school we do not offer athletic scholarships, we have everything else such as academics, leadership, presidential, and other scholarship opportunities that are offered at the college. While talking to the head football coach, Coach Dawson, I wanted to get some insight from him on how college walk on‘s work especially in the Division III world. He was very straightforward and to the point when he said, “Obviously we will recruit and we will do everything that a D1 school does, our way of offering an athlete is just a little different, including how we accept walk-ons. We will accept a coaches reference from that students high school coach along with their film. If they are not the best player, but have a good reference I will allow them to walk on to my team. They will be treated the same, but their chances of playing will not be as high as someone else who I recruited, very much the same as D1. If they are someone who does not have a high school coach reference, but has decent game film I will not show too much interest in them seeing as though references are very important to me and to our team, especially in today’s world you never know that athlete’s true character without a proper reference. That does not mean I will not give that athlete a chance, but I want some form of knowledge who that person is inside and outside of sports.” My brother, Jack Freeman, plays for the University of Houston and was offered a scholarship his junior year of high school. He is now going into his fifth year in which he will pursue his masters degree when he completes his bachelors degree in December. He will be considered a junior on the field, and will use his athletic scholarship to help pay for his education every step of the way. “For a division one school being a walk on athlete is a lot different because you have to work against 7 other kids who want to be a full time D1 athlete as well. Even though they are not getting a scholarship they are working just as hard as us who are getting a scholarship because they want that spot on the team. Some may never touch the field, others may, and some might actually get offered a scholarship with their hard work in and outside of practice. But at the end the day we are all athletes with the same dream and that is to play the sport we love especially at the college that we have chosen.”

College sports, no matter where you play, is always a competition on and off the field. Whether that be in the weight room, at practice, or even in the classroom, whatever you do defines if you will keep your scholarship, or multiple scholarships going into the next season. It is definitely a challenge for walk-on athletes, but with strong determination, execution, and effort on and off the field one will continue to get recognized for those efforts. College is definitely an everyday challenging task, but adding athletics especially football that is year-round is definitely a challenge in itself.