Scrappy underdog fights his way onto his college football team, earns a scholarship and becomes a star along the way — it sounds like the plot of a bad movie.
Yet that’s exactly what a number of players have done at Virginia Tech by becoming “walk-ons,” or players that make the squad without initially being offered an athletic scholarship.
Tech has a rich history of walk-ons finding success at the program, and even offered four such players scholarships this season. Receivers Charley Meyer and Willie Byrn and linebackers Josh Trimble and Derek DiNardo just became the latest in a long line of people to walk-on to the Tech football team.
“We’ve had a great walk-on program for a long time,” said head coach Frank Beamer. “I think we’re a place that walk-ons really want to consider because we put so many guys on scholarship and so many guys have come out of our program.”
Due to an epidemic of injuries at the outside linebacker position and the departure of several key veterans at wide receiver, these four look to play a crucial role in the upcoming season. Trimble will likely start at the “whip” linebacker position after presumed starter Ronny Vandyke went out for the year with a shoulder injury.
“If they’re going to figure into playing, we’re going to get them on scholarship as soon as we possibly can,” Beamer said.
Coaches also hinted that freshman Sam Rogers, a walk-on who will probably start at fullback, could be next in line for a scholarship.
"He’s not your typical fullback," said running backs coach Shane Beamer. "Sam, we feel like can line up as a slot receiver and have a matchup problem with some linebackers, because he’s a football player, if that makes sense."
Although stepping in for the injured Vandyke or the graduated Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller may seem intimidating for these walk-ons, scholarship players insist that the new guys will be ready.
“We expect people to come in and step up and play,” said linebacker Jack Tyler. “I went through it, I was kind of forced out there and told ‘You have to become an All-ACC linebacker because that’s who you’re going to replace.’ Trimble and DiNardo and some of those guys who are going to have to play are going to have to step into those shoes and be solid.”