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An unconventional start

September 13, 2012

 

Three athletes share stories of walking on

 

ALLISON EAST
Staff Reporter

 

After the lights dim on the final games and the buses roll back to campus for the last time, most high school athletes are left with nothing more than memories.

 

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a mere 2 percent of high school athletes move on to receive college athletic scholarships.

 

Corey White

“This small number means high school student-athletes and parents need to have realistic expectations about receiving an athletic scholarship to play sports in college,” according to the NCAA website. “Academic, not athletic, achievement is the most reliable path to success in life.”

 

Corey White, a senior computer information systems major, was part of the 98 percent of high school athletes who did not receive a scholarship when he graduated from high school. He spoke to various schools about playing baseball, but no offers came through.

 

White decided to come to Tech without a scholarship or spot on the baseball team and take a chance at walking on. He was successful.

 

“I had a meeting with head coach Wade Simoneaux a couple weeks before tryouts, and we talked about the whole process,” he said. “I showed up at tryouts, and everyone kind of does the same thing.”

 

Matt Conger, a senior forestry major, had a similar experience with football. After a disappointment in high school, Conger seriously thought about giving up on his dreams of playing college football.

 

“During my senior year, we lost a pretty big game, and I wasn’t too happy about that,” he said. “I stopped working out, got really small and didn’t plan on playing football. Then I came up here, and it just happened.”

Hunter Lee

 

A few weeks after moving to Ruston, a friend told Conger about an interest meeting, and being already cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse to play, he decided to try out.

 

The next day he received a phone call from the coaches saying he had made the team. Conger said his experience as a walk-on was not very different from that of a scholarship athlete.

 

“I didn’t have to work harder,” Conger said. “I definitely had to prove myself. Our strength coach treats everyone the same. He expects a brand new walk-on to do just as much as a starting senior. He makes sure you get your stuff done and get stronger.”

 

White said the baseball team and coaching staff reacted in a similar way.

 

“Surprisingly my walking on was really understood,” he said. “Everyone treated me the same way. That’s what I really liked about it. I felt like I was one of them already.”

 

Simoneaux holds walk-on tryouts around the second week of school each year. White said the number of walk-ons he can take depends on how full their roster is.

 

“Some years we have 10,” Simoneaux said. “Sometimes walk-on tryouts are nonexistent. This year we’re close to our full roster. We may have one spot open.”

 

Conger said walk-on athletes rarely receive a scholarship initially, but they do have the ability to earn one.

 

Matt Conger

Sonny Dykes, head football coach, approached Conger last summer about possibly receiving a scholarship and gave him areas to improve, he said. Two years after joining the team, Conger joined the 2 percent of students receiving an athletic scholarship.

 

“It’s definitely helped out a lot,” Conger said. “I get to go to school for free. I wanted to play football before I heard about tryouts because I missed it. I’m glad I got to play.”

 

One of Tech’s most notable walk-ons is football running back Hunter Lee. Lee walked on with the football team, and as a true freshman, he garnered attention in 2011 not with his size, but with his play.

 

Lee stepped up when several running backs suffered injuries and went on to score five touchdowns and rush for 650 net yards.

 

It is not all glory for walk-ons: White has still not received an athletic scholarship. He said scholarship or not, being a part of the baseball team has been a great experience.

 

“These past three years of the program have been really great, and I couldn’t ask for better coaches or teammates,” White said. “The opportunity to play has been the best in the world.”

 

Registration with the NCAA Clearinghouse and an updated physical is required to walk on to any NCAA team. Interested students may contact the appropriate coach any time after being cleared by the NCAA.

 

Email comments to ace007@latech.edu.

 

 

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