Written By Quai Chandler
BLOOMINGTON, IN. -- Spring practice has started for the Indiana Hoosiers, and as anticipation builds for the spring game, the expectations for the team soars. Spring is a time for players to polish their skills and prove themselves as a new season awaits them in the fall. While spring is important to all players, there may be an added level of responsibility for Hoosier walk-ons.
As Coach Kevin Wilson and his staff evaluate and re-evaluate players, a fresh and unique opportunity arises for walk-ons hoping to earn a scholarship. Their dream is not only to establish themselves athletically but to separate themselves mentally. Someone who has personal experience with this process is junior wide receiver Andre Booker, who feels that this spring could be more important for him personally than any other time as a Hoosier thus far. “I feel, a huge amount of responsibility for me to separate myself from other players. The truth is while coaches try to treat everyone equally, at the end of the day this is a business, and with a clean slate this is my time to show that I am just as valuable as any scholarship player.” This “value” Booker speaks of reaches far beyond what’s done on the field. Coaches project a player’s value to a team through many different social avenues, including how a guy interacts with his teammates and his day-to-day disposition. What makes this process especially difficult for walk-on players is the lack of time they have to prove themselves socially to the coaches.
Being able to optimize the time with coaches and to show them that you ought to be a player on the team is a skill in its own right. Actually, in the spring there is a game within the game of college football. This social dance is especially heightened for walk-on players because of the inherent stigma attached to them by coaches and teammates. Booker chimes in, “I took it slow, and gave everyone a chance to get to know me. I do feel that walk-on players in college football have to prove themselves on and off the field before really being considered part of the team”.
For a walk-on, breaking through social expectations may be just as difficult as proving yourself on the field.
The Hoosiers have added some new pieces to their coaching staff this season, including two new coordinators. After losing key offensive pieces such as Cody Latimer and Ted Bolser it’s clear that only the best players will play. The fresh opportunity from the new faces actually opens the door for every player to stand out and make a name for himself, and, with expectations to improve on a 5-7 record from last season, Hoosier coaches will be excited to see the increased level of competition this spring.