Playing Without Pay: 10 Memorable Husky Walk-Ons

UW players who showed up without the promise of financial aid, but confident they could earn it.
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The University of Washington football program, as much as anyone, encourages walk-ons to join the roster.

The Huskies used to have 50 non-scholarship players each season. These guys dressed in a separate locker room. A handful of them received full rides once they demonstrated they could play.

Today, the UW currently has two original walk-ons among their 22 returning starters, or 5 percent of the lineup, in junior inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofosihio and senior outside linebacker Ryan Bowman. 

They became immediate contributors, getting on the field ahead of most of the scholarship players. Of course, they became scholarship recipients not long after proving themselves on game days.

For six decades, the Huskies have relied on walk-ons as an important part of their success. It's a different form of recruiting: Come audition with us and earn a scholarship.

Listed here are 10 unforgettable UW players who paid for their tuition and room and board early on but proved themselves to be as good if not better than the guys who were plucked from high schools with the promise of financial aid from the beginning. 

10 Memorable UW Walk-Ons

1) Kurt Gegner

Similar to incoming UW freshman edge rusher Maurice Heims, Gegner moved from Germany as a teenager and took up football. Only in Gegner's case, he became a starting tackle playing both ways for two seasons after walking on from nearby Roosevelt High School. He shared in consecutive Rose Bowl victories over Wisconsin in 1960 and Minnesota in 1961. As a Husky senior, he was named as an ABC All-American. Gegner died in 1981 from cancer at 43.

2) Chuck Nelson

He showed up without a scholarship from Everett High School and became a consensus All-American place-kicker as a senior in 1982. Setting an NCAA record, Nelson converted 28 consecutive field goals without a miss overlapping two seasons. He played five seasons in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings.

3) Jeff Jaeger

Arriving from Kent-Meridian High School and walking on, Jaeger received some sort of All-American recognition during all four seasons as a UW kicker, topped off by consensus first-team honors as a senior in 1986. Jaeger holds the record for most career Husky field goals made with 85. He spent a dozen years in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, and the Chicago Bears.

4) Edefuan Ulofoshio 

The linebacker from Alaska and Nevada turned down small-college offers from Northern Arizona and Robert Morris to walk on at the UW. He caused a fumble on his first college play on a kickoff. Ulofoshio became the starting inside linebacker for the final three games of his redshirt freshman season and all four as a sophomore. A budding star, he had 18 tackles against Stanford, second in school history.

5) Hugh Millen

After a year of junior college, Millen was another former Roosevelt High player who walked on at the UW. He started 18 games at quarterback over his junior and senior seasons. He came off the bench to rally the Huskies in the fourth quarter to a 28-17 victory over Oklahoma in the 1985 Orange Bowl. He played eight NFL seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos. 

6) Tom Turnure

Yet another ex-Roosevelt High player without a scholarship, Turnure joined the Huskies and started at center in 1978 and 1979, ending his college career against Texas in the Sun Bowl. He received AP All-American honorable-mention recognition. He went to the NFL and logged six seasons for the Detroit Lions.

7) Stewart Hill

Arriving from suburban Redmond High, Hill walked on with the Huskies and started 17 games over three seasons at outside linebacker. He really came into is own in the CFL, playing 10 seasons for the Edmonton Eskimos, British Columbia Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was a three-time All-CFL selection, scoring six touchdowns, two on interceptions and four on occasional stints on offense. 

8) Myles Bryant

The cornerback from Los Angeles joined the Huskies as a walk-on, played four consecutive seasons and started 38 games over three of them. He was a two-time, second-team All-Pac-12 selection and also received honorable-mention honors. He finished with four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Undrafted, Bryant signed with the New England Patriots as a free agent, played in nine games and intercepted a pass.

9) Ryan Bowman

A walk-on from Bellevue High School and Florida's IMG Academy, Bowman walked on at the UW, has started 19 games at outside linebacker and will enter his sixth season with the Huskies next fall. He was named second-team All-Pac-12 as a junior in 2019. He has 102 tackles so far, including 25.5 for lost yardage, 13 of which are sacks. 

10) Mike Green 

The most notorious UW walk-on, Green left Portland's Jackson High without a scholarship, joined the Huskies and started the 1974 and 1975 seasons at defensive tackle in the final year for coach Jim Owens and first year for Don James. He was one of the first two players to wear a gold W on his helmet, initially given as a reward for exceptional play. Life did not turn out well for Green. In 1991, he was convicted of murder and robbery in the Seattle area and confined in prison. A body-builder, he admitted to steroid use, which likely affected his violent actions. 

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