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Scholarship athletes are not the only ones head football coach Dan Hawkins said he expects to make a difference next season.
Hawkins said the “sleepers” of a college football team are usually the walk-on talents that join after the official signing day.
“Throughout my career, I have always relished the element of the walk-ons,” Hawkins said. “They always bring a sense of edginess and enthusiasm to the team. The guy who makes it in life is always the guy with the chip on his shoulder; the guy who has something to prove.”
According to Rivals.com, CU has recruited the 15th best class in the nation. For coach Hawkins, that does not mean there isn’t room for more talent.
“This year, we still have two scholarships to be awarded,” Hawkins said. “We always leave it open with the positions the players are on the field; you never know who is going show up. I’ve signed some of the best guys in late spring.”
In the past two years, walk-ons have been an important part of both the offensive and defensive squads for the Buffs.
One well-known walk-on for the Buffs is strong safety DJ Dykes. Dykes transferred from Idaho to CU in 2006 and had to sit out the entire 2006 season because of NCAA transfer rules. In 2007, he became an influential player in the secondary for the Buffalos and earned one of the Buffs’ limited number of scholarships.
“A lot of people doubted that I could come to a place like this and earn a scholarship,” Dykes said. “It’s nice to be able to prove people wrong and accomplish my personal goal of earning a scholarship.”
Gaining a scholarship is not something that every walk-on player can do. There are only so many scholarships that can be awarded.
“With NCAA rules, the scholarships are either full ride or nothing,” said Mike Bohn, the CU athletic director. “It gives the walk-ons more determination to do well and earn those spots.”
The task of becoming a walk-on includes sending in video tapes of past football experience, providing references and holding good academic standing.
“The players need to have a real zeal for rigor and determination to graduate,” Hawkins said. “We are looking for the football player and the student. We want to be sure we aren’t giving them another burden.”
While walk-ons may not get the same financial attention as scholarship athletes, Hawkins said they do get the same coaching attention.
“They get the same love and appreciation as everyone else,” Hawkins said. “If you’re on the team, we’ll love you up. They’re very important to what we do.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Philip Fisher at Philip.Fisher@colorado.edu.