Walk-ons find success
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2005
Updated: Sunday, May 17, 2009 19:05
In March 1983, Luke Johnson was born with Southern Miss running through his blood. As a child, he came to the Golden Eagle home games and when he graduated high school he decided to come to Southern Miss.
"My senior year I pulled my ACL and all of the prospects stopped looking," Johnson said. " I could have went to a junior college but it has been my life dream to be a Golden Eagle."
He tried out for the Golden Eagles football team through the Southern Miss walk-on program.
The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players but there are many more players known as walk-on players who play an intregal part of the team. Over the years, there have been 41 former walk-ons who were rewarded for their hard work and dedication with the Kristen Bower Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship is in honor of Coach Bower's daughter, Kristen, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1997. The scholarship is awarded annually to a former walk-on who has displayed hard work, determination and a great contribution to the team.
This season, some of the starters are walk-on. Matthew Chatelaine, Stephen Daigle and Luke Johnson are just a few who have kept the tradition and honor of the walk-on program.
Johnson was even selected to the American Football Coaches Association's Good Works Team for all his hard work.
Matthew Chatelain, junior defensive end, said that he was weighing between Southern and Louisiana Tech but chose to come to Southern because of a friend who had transferred and the school's reputation.
In a prepared statement, Coach Jeff Bower said that many times the walk-on players are the hardest working players.
"They are going to school and paying their own way," Bower said. "They are working out every single day."
Johnson believes that Coach Bower has a great program here at Southern and that he gives a fair shot and treats everyone the same no matter what. He believes this program is a great tradition and is unprecedented.
Southern Miss has one of the most successful programs and they have a record of successful and even famous athletes who started as a walk-on. Sammy Winder, former runningback with the Golden Eagles in 1978-81 started out as a walk-on and in 1993 was drafted by the Denver Broncos. Hardworking players like Chris Pierce, Karr Shannon, and Mark Haulman have set a high precedent for the Southern Miss Eagles walk-on players.
DaRon Lawrence, LeVon Pears, Chad Ruffin and Marvin Young are former walk-on's who just completed their careers last season.
This past week, Southern held walk-on tryouts and the Golden Eagles picked up 15 players.
Jason Jones, football recruiting and operation assistant, said that despite what many people think, the walk-on process is not just about trying out and getting to play football.
In order for athletes to attempt to walk on, they must go through a lengthy process. They have to be enrolled with the university, have met the NCAA requirements and have a physical. Once they make the team, they have a list of things to do.
Chatelain suggests that if anyone is considering walking on to make sure they are prepared.
"Come out with the attitude that you can play with anybody," Chatelain said. " Just because you are a walk-on doesn't mean that you are any less."
Johnson also suggest for people to believe in themselves and in the abilities that God gave you."
Somebody's opinion is the only difference between a person who came straight in from high school and a person who walked on," Johnson said.