I get this question a lot so I figured I would address it and give my guidance on this topic. This is an important time (a month before signing day) to blog about this topic as numerous guys are having to make tough decisions on where they want to play college football. Please read below.
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Preferred Walk On (PWO) for College Football
Two common questions I get from players and parents are: ‘Coach, what does a preferred walk on mean? What does a regular walk on mean?’
Answer: College Coaches only have so many athletic scholarships they can give for D1A and D1AA programs, that they are limited on how many they can offer to players. What also conflicts with this question is how many graduating seniors are leaving the program that were on scholarship, AND how many current walk on players will earn a scholarship after playing on the field. So, there is a lot that comes with the coaches decisions on who to give a scholly (scholarship).
Now to answer the question. What is a Preferred Walk On Player? I tell guys, basically the College Coaches want you just as much as a scholarship worthy guy, but they don’t have enough scholarships in their pocket to give you. You will be treated just like a scholarship guy…. you will be invited to fall camp (a month before students arrive) and you will get to compete. There are only 105 spots for Fall Camp, so if you get invited as a PREFERRED WALK ON (PWO) you are still valuable to these college coaches. Does that mean I will have to pay tuition and room/board? Typically, Yes. If a college coach offers you a PWO, that means they see high talent in you and expect you to compete for the job and potentially play as a true freshman. If you do play, and win the job, there is HIGH POTENTIAL that you will earn a scholarship starting second semester of your freshman year, or by the summer after your freshman year. Now, I would be re-missed if I didn’t tell you that I know guys that have had preferred walk on status till their junior season, played a little here and there, OR even played a bunch, then receive a full scholarship their senior season – so please keep that in mind. Will I get a locker? Will I get to eat with the scholarship players? Do I get to attend Study Tables? You will get a locker, pads, cleats, etc… You will only eat with the Scholarship players in certain situations (pre game meal, team gatherings, etc)… You will be put on a Study Table plan… You are treated just the same as a scholarship guy in those cases. If you get invited to camp in the 105, you will get these things.
We have a perfect example in Kicker/Punter Luke Jackson, seen above at the Southern Specialist Camp back in early January 2013, a year ago. Luke had a few academic scholarship offers from D2 and D3 schools, as well as a D1AA full athletic scholarship offer from Alabama A&M, but opted to take the preferred walk on (PWO) offer and commit to Missouri on Signing Day. So, I can still have a ‘Signing Day Party’ with my family and friends if I take a preferred walk on offer? HECK YES! You deserved that offer and you should celebrate that with family and friends and even your coaches! As you can see below, Luke has received all the benefits as scholarship players do by being at the Cotton Bowl for his game against Oklahoma State this Friday night, as well as his own jersey and locker seen below.
Luke Jackson on the roster at Missouri’s website > Click Here.
Now understand that after camp has finished and the football teams are gearing up for the first game, more players will be added to the roster – these are typically INFORMAL WALK ON players. Teams can have over 105 players in their program, but are limited to how many they can dress at home games and even more limited on away games. This leads me to the second question I get….
What is an Informal Walk On player? Basically what teams do, is conduct a tryout for players directly after fall camp, in the mid to late August time frame for players that didn’t quite make it for a Preferred Walk On Offer nor a Scholarship Offer, and they get one last chance to show the coaches if they can make the roster. I have seen anywhere from 5 to 10 players, all the way up to 75-100 players attend these tryouts, depending on the school, the coaching staff, and what they are content with, and these players are competing for VERY limited roster spots.. I will say, just from my own experiences at Ball State back in 2003-2007, there were players that made an impact at the Informal Walk On tryout, and did make the team leading up to game one, AND then earn a scholarship their junior or senior year.
Don’t be surprised if you happen to receive the same jersey number as another player! I was a scholarship guy at Ball State and I received the number I requested #10 at the time, and it was the same jersey number as the current senior Kicker/Punter. I happen to win the job, and I had to get another number before game one, and ended up with #40. By sophomore year, I decided to get my own number #20 that I have stuck with till this day. It is VERY COMMON for players to have the same number if you aren’t playing on the field. Even Luke Jackson, who is red-shirting this season has the same number as a defensive back on Missouri.
We sure hope this answers some of your questions! Don’t hesitate to email Coach Jackson at the site below for further questions/comments!
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