What’s It Like to be a Walk-On at a D1 SEC Football Program?

Jake Evans talks to Sam Johnson as part of CSD’s ‘What’s it like…’ interview series. Sam is a junior at Ole Miss studying Managerial Finance. Sam was added to Collegiate Sports Data as a college level prospect on 11-5-2012.

JE: What made you first want to try to play college football?
SJ: I have been playing football my whole life, since the second grade, and it’s hard to imagine my life without it. Not only is it fun, but you build great friendships and learn a lot along the way.
JE: Where were you looking at/who was looking at you?
SJ: Coming out of high school I was a little undersized and so I only got looks from smaller FCS schools. I had an offer from Furman in South Carolina, I also talked to Samford and Mercer as well. From bigger SEC schools, I had the opportunity to walk on at both Tennessee and Ole Miss to see where that led.
JE: Why did you decide to walk on at Ole Miss versus accepting a scholarship at a smaller school?
SJ: I chose Ole Miss because eventually football is going to end and I wanted to make sure that the options had good business schools and a fun student life. So, in the end, I fell in love with the Ole Miss campus, the business school, and the opportunity I had to play football here.
JE: What is a walk on’s life like, versus that of a scholarship player?
SJ: There isn’t much difference, and walk ons get treated well. The only thing that we don’t receive is textbooks, meal plan, and the monthly cost of attendance checks. We still receive the same gear, get the same opportunities, and are viewed as the same players.
JE: What’s been the best part of being a walk on/being on an SEC football team?
SJ: The experience of being a part of an SEC football program is unbeatable. We get to be a part of so many cool things. As a player I get to travel to cool stadiums and places like the Sugar Bowl, use top of the line facilities like weight rooms and locker rooms, and of course we get lots of gear. But getting to run onto the field in the middle of a packed stadium is hard to beat.
JE: Did you ever want to quit, being that you were only a walk on?
SJ: A few times as a freshman the thought crossed my mind. I think it happens for everyone though during their first summer. Being away from home, having summer workouts and everything being new isn’t easy. The workload is far from easy, so after a while it gets to you. But eventually you learn to adapt to it.
JE: What made you think you had a chance to walk on?
SJ: Since I was getting talked to by some smaller schools, I figured I had a chance to try and go bigger. So, I started thinking about places I wanted to go and started making phone calls with my high school head coach. After many phone calls and talks, I was given an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
JE: Funniest moment related to football?
SJ: During the season on Friday mornings, the players who don’t travel have a really hard workout at 6:30 in the morning. It’s what makes us a lot stronger but it’s not very fun. One time when I was a freshman, one of my teammates overslept and missed his ride. I thought he had already left so I also left. At about 6:20, I was walking to the weight room and my phone rang. It’s was teammates saying he just woke up and was running across campus to make it to practice on time. He told me to tell the strength coaches He didn’t have a car so he was running fast all the way from the dorms. He made it with one minute to spare at 6:29am, super sweaty and then had to do the whole workout. It was really funny to us but I don’t think he had a lot of fun.
JE: Who will sign the top recruiting class this season?
SJ: I haven’t really been keeping up with it this year, but I think Alabama is always near the top, and I bet Florida State is up there too.
JE: How did you find out about the walk on process?
SJ: My high school football Coach Ingle Martin, played in college and in the NFL with several teams. Since I was being recruited by smaller schools, he helped me contact bigger ones about being able to walk on. He was extremely helpful and one of the biggest reasons I’m at Ole Miss.
JE: What’s the most rewarding part about being a walk on at a college football team?
SJ: The friendships and the experience I have gained from being part of this team is impossible to put in words. I am closest with my boys on the offensive line and the ones in my signing class. But you make friends from all over, and get to experience some of the hardest and most rewarding events.

Jake Evans is a 19-year-old Integrated Marketing and Communications major at the University of Mississippi. Lover of all things Ole Miss, Predators, Titans & Braves.