Hundreds of high school football players graduate believing their playing days are over, though their passion for the game persists.
Some just aren’t good enough to make a college team, some fall through the cracks in recruiting and others never recognize the opportunities teams put out every year.
CSU football wants to give anyone remotely interested in continuing to play the game they love their opportunity at a walk-on meeting Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. in the McGraw Athletic Center’s main auditorium on the first floor.
“There’s a long history and tradition of walk-on players at Colorado State, and that’s something I have continued to embrace as the head coach of this football program,” coach Jim McElwain said. “All walk-ons are an important part of our Ram family, and some have even gone on to play in the NFL.”
While future stardom and an NFL career are far from a guarantee, walk-ons have an undeniable impact on the day-to-day improvement of a football team.
Sophomore defensive lineman Cole Allenbrand played football at local Fort Collins High School and went to Adams State before deciding he’d rather help a Division I team.
“It obviously starts with not wanting to be done playing the game. That’s the biggest thing,” Allenbrand said of his decision to walk-on. “You’re not getting a scholarship, you’re really doing it for the love of the game … if there’s any part of (interested walk-ons) that thinks they still want to play, and they have that fire to keep going, then do it, come play because you won’t regret it.”
Director of Football Operations Tom Ehlers said the last walk-on meeting had 35 interested walk-ons show up to the meeting, and 13 of them made it onto the team’s roster. Ehlers said there is a potential for up to as many as 20 open spots for this spring.
There is always an emphasis for size and players along the offensive and defensive lines, but any skill position players are encouraged to show up and help a struggling program, according to Ehlers.
Ehlers, who’s been with the program for 28 years, has seen first hand the success stories of the guys who took a chance.
“There’s a lot of programs that can tell you about their stars that have been walk-ons, but I think if you’ve met a lot of our walk-ons, you’d find they like being apart of our program because they’re treated well,” he said.
Allenbrand had his concerns about how he would be treated as a non-scholarship player, but his fears didn’t last long.
“Really there is no difference because nobody really cares,” Allenbrand said. “You are a part of the team and that’s the biggest factor. You get to contribute to the team, and that’s the best part. The relationships you develop with your coaches and your teammates are irreplaceable.”
“If a guy wants to walk-on and he gets an opportunity and he sticks it out, even though it’s hard, I guarantee you it’s hard, at the end of the semester they can say that they put the uniform on,” Ehlers said. “They’re Rams for life, if they do that, and that’s a cool thing. There’s 25,000 students here and only 130 of them are on the football team. That’s all we want — to give guys and opportunity.”