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What is the difference between a walk on and a preferred walk on?

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What is the difference between a walk on and a preferred walk on?Recently I received the question on a comment regarding the difference between being a walk on and a preferred walk on. With both terms being thrown around often in the recruiting process, it is important for you to know the difference. In my opinion, there is a big difference between the two that recruits must be aware of.

Let me start by talking about a preferred walk on. When a coach says that they want to offer you a preferred walk on spot, they are saying that they will eventually have a spot for you on the roster when school gets underway in the fall. You have been given the green light to at least be on the team during the first year and be a part of practice.

A walk on is in a much tougher situation. Colleges even at the Division I level in football have tryouts to see if you can make the team. If you are a walk on, you will be going to those tryouts to see if you are good enough to practice with the big boys throughout the entire year. You basically have a tryout to be able to be a preferred walk on.

So if you are a recruit, the situation you would rather be looking for is the preferred walk on. It means that unless you quit, you will be with the team. This does not mean you will be traveling (Freshman walk ons rarely travel with the team to begin with) or that you will be getting a scholarship down the road. It just means that you can come to practice everyday.

The reason someone may just be a walk on to begin with is if the coaches question that the recruit is good enough to play there. For example, say you grew up everyday following Nebraska. You had a solid high school career but would do anything to play for the Cornhuskers. You may try talking to the coaches and see if you can make the team as a walk on. I believe you should eventually get a try out to see if they think you have what it takes. I have heard many situations where hundreds of athletes try to make it in a walk on role and each and every one of them ended up getting cut.

If you are considering taking a preferred walk on spot at a school, one important thing that you must try and receive is a guaranteed roster spot. Schools are allowed to bring in 85 football players during early August to begin preseason practice. Because there is a scholarship limit at all levels, there is no way that every single one of those players will be on scholarship. So that means walk ons have the potential to take some of those spots.

For the most sought after walk ons, some schools are willing to offer roster spots for August. That does not mean you will have the spot over the course of your career, but that first year, you will be reporting with the team in early August.

If you are just a preferred walk on, you will be able to legally start practice once school gets underway. Some schools start in mid August while others wait until September. The later school starts, the harder it will be for you as an athlete to catch up. How easy would it be to come in having missed a month of practice and trying to compete?

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17 Comments so far
  1. Jamal May 1, 2008

    Admin, can you please elaborate on military academies? I have an eligiblity issue and therefore I’m strongly considering attending a FUMA or Hargrave…could you explain the schools, what they’re like, track records of producing D1/Pro talent, recruiting process, lifestyle, etc…that’d make for an excellent article.


  2. admin May 2, 2008

    While I can look into it somewhat, I think this is something you need to research more on your own. If it is something you are seriously considering, you definitely need to know more about it even if I write an article on it.

  3. Jamal May 2, 2008

    Oh, yes I’m definintley researching it…but there’s only so much you can find out through a schools website. Since you seem pretty knowledagble about so many areas regarding recruiting I thought I may consult you on this. I would greatly appreciate this.

  4. admin May 2, 2008

    I will what I can do in the next few weeks. No promises but will try.

  5. Wayne Horsley August 14, 2010

    You have one very large glaring error in your article. You state that DI schools may only bring in 85 football players for August Practice, when in reality there are 105 positions allowed for fall camp and a limit of 85 scholarships.

  6. admin August 16, 2010

    Good call. Error on my end, definitely an older article and the limit to camp is 105.

  7. Coach Brent / Kicking World December 3, 2010

    great comment and thanks for the clarification

  8. Lewis Sonny Bass May 9, 2012

    Thank you for the opportunity to receive this. I still would like to know what is the list that each of the recruits receive , like food , room, books, tuition , etc. ?

    Thanks Sonny Bass

  9. John Baugus February 27, 2013

    Would like some clarification please. The first sentence of your final paragraph reads, “If you are just a preferred walk on, you will be able to legally start practice once school gets underway. ” My understanding is that one of the biggest advantages to being a preferred walk-on is the ability to begin practicing on day one with the rest of the team, and not having to wait until school gets underway. Am I mistaken?

  10. admin February 27, 2013

    It should be just a walk-on, not preferred.

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