Famous Football Walk-Ons
A walk-on for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1996, Burlsworth eventually became a second-team All-America and a third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. Starting this year, the Burlsworth Trophy, a national award in Burlsworth's honor, will be handed out to a college football player who started his career as a walk-on. SI.com takes a look at other players who had to work their way on to the varsity squad.
A walk-on at Minnesota, Mecklenburg went on to become a two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection and a 12th round pick of the Denver Broncos. With Denver, the defensive lineman once again beat the odds by playing his way to six Pro Bowls and three Super Bowl appearances.
After graduating from Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Fla., Oliver walked on to Galen Hall's Florida Gators squad in 1985. From there, Oliver earned an athletic scholarship, became a starting free safety and team captain for the Gators and was a first-team All-America selection in 1987 and 1988.
Williams is a unique addition to this list as the sole walk-on who wasn't itching to get on the gridiron. He didn't take up football until his junior year at Southern University, but by his senior year he had tied the Division 1-AA single-season record with 11 interceptions.
A walk-on linebacker at Arizona State, Woodson was named to five Pro Bowls and went on to win three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. Woodson is just one of several Sun Devils who went from walk-on to NFL pro (Adam Archuleta and Levi Jones also accomplished the feat).
Lightly recruited out of high school, Andre Wadsworth decided to walk on at Florida State in 1994. Despite playing tight end in high school, Wadsworth played defensive tackle for the Seminoles and earned All-ACC honors during his freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years.
Though recruited by several Ivy League schools, Fujita opted to walk on at the University of California in 1997. Originally a safety, Fujita made the seamless transition to collegiate linebacker and earned a scholarship shortly thereafter.
A walk-on for the Miami Hurricanes in 1997, Moss would graduate as the school's leader in receiving yards (2,546) and all-purpose yards (4,393).
Brackett walked on to the Scartlet Knights in 1999. He played sparingly, mostly on special teams, but showed enough for Rutgers to offer him a scholarship during his sophomore year. By the time Brackett was a senior, he was the Scarlet Knights' captain and led the team with 130 tackles, second-most in the Big East that year.
Colt Brennan is another rarity in that he walked on twice, first at the University of Colorado in 2003, then again in 2005 at the University of Hawaii. His second stint proved more successful, and by the time Brennan graduated in 2008 he held the NCAA record for most touchdown passes in a single season, highest pass completion percentage and passing efficiency.
A walk-on at Fresno State, Mankins started 14 games as a redshirt freshman, allowing only two sacks on future No. 1 pick David Carr. He was named to the Freshman All-America team and would later become the first offensive lineman in Fresno State history to win the team's MVP award.
The Manhattan, Kan., native walked on at Kansas State and drew national attention during his sophomore campaign when he caught 45 passes and eight touchdowns. Injuries largely derailed Nelson's junior season, but he showed his stats weren't a fluke when he caught 122 passes for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns during his senior season with the Wildcats.
Thought to be too small and too slow to play at the collegiate level, Matthews walked on at USC in 2004 largely because of who his father was. Matthews didn't earn a scholarship until 2006 and didn't start until his senior year, but he showed enough to warrant a first-round pick from the Green Bay Packers. The definition of a late bloomer, Matthews has 22.0 career sacks in just two NFL seasons.