University of Georgia
Football Walk-on Offensive Linemen
2011: Earned Scholarship, Recipient of the David Jacob’s Football Scholarship
2010: SEC Academic Honor Roll, played against Idaho State
2009: Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, played against Tennessee Tech
2008: Walk-on, Redshirted as a member of the scout team
John was home-schooled through high school. He played football for the GFL, the Georgia Football League. They played eight man football before switching to eleven man John’s sophomore year. John played both ways all four years of high school. Being in a small league John didn’t attract attention from any division one colleges. His dad helped him get recruited by smaller colleges. Both Auburn and Florida invited John to walk-on. But John has been a life-long Georgia fan, so he decided to become a Bulldog.
WillofaChampion: What has been one of your greatest challenges as a walk-on?
John: Going from home-school football where there were very few players and not a high level of competition to suddenly competing against the best in the country. It was like going from peewee to high school. The first day was completely eye opening.
WillofaChampion: So there was a significant gap you wanted to close in a hurry?
John: Yes. With the support of my family and a lot of will and determination I got after it every single day.
John: My first two years I had to spend extra time running and in the weight room. I’d come in early to work. I also spent extra time watching film and getting up to speed.
WillofaChampion: Do you have to be more mentally tough as a walk-on?
John: I think so. You are not given anything. When you join the team they don’t expect much from you. You don’t get any extra privileges. There is a difference because the guy that was recruited is known. The other is an unknown. You’re playing against the first string. You have to work you butt off to get noticed.
WillofaChampion: How did your teammates receive you?
John: Very well. Our team is welcoming and we are a tight unit. But you do have to earn respect. You have to prove that you’re worthy of being here. Once the guys knew I wasn’t going to be a push over they respected. Things have been good.
WillofaChampion: How did your coaches receive you?
John: Coach Searels (Stacy Searels is now with the University of Texas) was a tough coach. But he gave me the same opportunity he gave everyone else. Even though I was a walk-on, I got the same opportunity all the offensive line received. I don’t know if that is true for every position coach. He gave us reps in everything we did. He gave us a shot to show what we’re made of.
WillofaChampion: Why do you think you’ve made it when other walk-ons do not?
John: God’s grace. I’m not a quitter. I’m here and I’m going to finish. I am going to give it a 100%.
WillofaChampion: When you’ve been through challenging times, who do talk with to help encourage you?
John: My freshman year I spent a lot of time talking to my father. My father encouraged me to keep pressing on, to keep getting stronger, and to be patient because things will come in time. I spent a lot of time in prayer and talking with my pastor. More recently, I have talked with my girlfriend a lot. Having a support system has been very helpful.
WillofaChampion: How did you find out you were getting a scholarship?
John: It was the middle of camp. During a team meeting Coach Richt called eight of us to the front. We were exhausted from camp. We were trying to figure out if we did something wrong. We’re standing up front. Coach announces to the whole team, “Gentlemen. You have received the eight scholarships we have this year.” The whole team started whooping and hollering. We had a huge celebration for about 10 or 15 minutes. It was electric and crazy. It came as a total surprise to me.
WillofaChampion: What was it like telling your dad?
John: After the meeting I immediately called my parents. They were screaming so loud I had to hold the phone away from my ear. My girlfriend didn’t believe me at first. She thought I was pulling her leg.
WillofaChampion: What impact has following your dream and earning it had on the rest of your life?
John: It has made me a better man. Showing others I can push through and endure. That I can commit to something for so long. With time and determination you receive your rewards. All hard work is rewarded. It has been a model for my future. It has only been four years, but I have learned that hard work and determination will get you where you want to go.
WillofaChampion: Other athletes considering walking-on will eventually read this article, what advice do you have for them?
John: Go one-hundred and ten percent. Put in everything extra that you can. Never give up. If you make it giving your all, then you’ve made it. If you don’t make it giving your all, then you’ve given your all. Don’t go half way. Give your all.
John is majoring in Anthropology
Interview: September 2011