Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez, who began his college playing days as a non-scholarship defensive back at West Virginia in 1981, has a favorite saying about walk-ons.
He said one of his former players once told him that it felt better to earn a scholarship as a walk-on than it did to do so out of high school.
“He said if you earn it out of high school, that means you’re a really good high school player,” Rodriguez said. “If you earn it out of college, that means you’re a good college player. I had never thought of it that way, but it’s true.”
That said, Rodriguez can say he has three more good college players in receiver Johnny Jackson, linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson and nose guard Tevin Hood.
All three former walk-ons have been awarded scholarships for this season.
Sir Thomas Jackson started 12 games last season and was fifth on the team with 58 tackles. He had 1.5 sacks.
Johnny Jackson caught 25 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown; nine of those receptions came in the second quarter of the game at Stanford.
Hood started three games, making 26 tackles. At 293 pounds, he gives the Cats needed girth in the middle of the defensive line.
As walk-ons who had been in the program for two years, the unrelated Jacksons do not count toward the program’s annual limit of 25 new scholarships (just toward the overall limit of 85).
Hood, a senior, is just entering his second season with the program after playing one season at Duke and at lower-division non-scholarship University of San Diego. Hood will count toward Arizona’s yearly scholarship limit of 25, but the school isn’t sure yet if that will count backward to the previous class or forward to the next one, depending on how other things fall.
For example, three freshmen who signed in February but did not enroll because of academic problems, are erased from the 2013 class. Freshman David Maka, who enrolled briefly in summer school before leaving the team, does count toward the 25-scholarship limit, per NCAA rules, although the UA is appealing this specific case.