Considering Becoming a D1 Football Walk-On – READ THIS FIRST!

Becoming a college football walk-on is hard work! Many don’t want to hear this but it is the truth. As a walk-on, by definition, you don’t receive any athletic scholarships.  All walk-on’s pay their own tuition which includes: room and board and, the majority of walk-on’s do the heavy lifting at practice. At best, as a walk-on you get a small role on the team but, always remember that your position on the roster is not guaranteed. Being a walk-on has it’s pro’s and con’s so let’s take a look and see what becoming an D1 walk-on entails so you can figure out if this is the right path you want to take. What are the reasons some players look to walk-on? Lets start by saying walk-on players can have just as much talent as the scholarship players. Some players just missed out on a scholarship, some want to play for a particular team and being a walk-on is the only option, some want to follow in the footsteps of dads and brothers who played for a particular football team or, they are late bloomers and did not get any attention from major colleges.


Here you can access the most up-to-date college football openings from college coaches looking for players to fill roster spots

Why do NCAA D1 Schools have walk-on opportunities?

NCAA D1 school football teams hold try outs for players. College coaches have these tryouts because they know that there are some talented players that, for whatever reason, have been overlooked & not spotted yet. College football teams typically have 85 scholarships to offer but nearly 130 players are on the team How? Because the rest of the players are made up of talented and hungry walk-on players. As you can see, walk-ons are essential to the world of college football. You are needed! Football programs at the D1 and D2 and NAIA level have a limited number of scholarship spots. NCAA D1 college football programs usually have rosters of 118 student-athletes with only 85 of those on scholarship. This means that the average D1 college football program has 33 potential walk-on spots at any given time.

What are the expectations of a walk-on at the NCAA D1 Level?

In NCAA Division 1 Football programs the FBS teams have 85 full-ride scholarships to offer and the FCS teams have a max of 63 full/partial scholarships to offer and the NAIA football programs offer 24 full-ride scholarships. All these teams still need walk-on players to fill the additional roles with the team. The following, is a list of what is expected of you if you decided to become walk-on:

    • Bring positive energy to all practices, games and any other team events
    • Be committed and treat every practice and meeting like a tryout
    • Prove yourself every time consistently
    • Put the team first
    • Fill in on drills & scrimmages when scholarship players are injured
    • Know by heart, the competitions plays
    • Help boost the team’s overall GPA & graduation rate

NOTE:  Being a college walk-on is a time-proven and respected path.

What are the different types of walk-ons?

Typically, as most people imagine when you say “walk-on” they think of a player who didn’t get recruited.  College coaches tend to be committed to their scholarship players because the school has already made a financial investment in them and, the coach has his reputation to uphold. A lot, but not all college coaches, see their walk-on players as there to push their scholarship players or fill in when an unforeseen injury occurs. However, there are different types of walk-on’s so lets take a look and see what the differences are:

What does PREFERRED WALK-ON mean?

A preferred walk-on are non-scholarships players (no scholarship for the 1st year) who have been recruited by the football coaching staff to attend the school and play for the team. Preferred walk-on’s have preferential treatment during the admissions process. As a preferred walk-on a coach guarantees you a spot on the roster, but you still don’t receive an athletic scholarship.These are players who are talented enough for the school to be interested in and can contribute the the team on the field, but for one reason or another, could not be offered a scholarship on this occasion. As a preferred walk-on you can also have some of the same “perks” as full scholarship or partial scholarship players in regards to training and educational resources. (Remember, it is sometimes possible to get a full or partial scholarship the following year). Preferred walk-on’s are first in line when a roster spot opens up, however, they still have to compete for their spot on the team every year and can be cut from the roster at any time.

NOTE: Sometimes, preferred walk-on’s can often receive more playing time than scholarship players and can even earn starting positions! If you have the talent to play D1 but aren’t being heavily recruited, becoming a preferred walk-on might be the best option for you!

What is a Football Red-shirt Preferred Walk-On?

To be red-shirted means a player will not play in their first year. In some cases, a preferred walk-on might be red-shirted. Football coaches do this to allow players to develop their skills more thus improving their chances of earning a scholarship next year or in the future.


A not-recruited walk-on or, regular walk-on, is when you work your way onto the team by enrolling at the school and attending an open tryout or, you have worked it out with the college through an agency or, have previously contacted the football coaches and made contact on your own. This is the route taken by players who are not on any particular schools radar. If you are going to go down this route you are going to have to go out of your way to make yourself know to the coaching staff. There are various ways you can do this, these include: going to the school in person, emailing or handing in your high school or junior college game film, making yourself stand out from the crowd by asking questions and/or having discussions with football coaches to show them your shrewdness for the game. Keep in mind that this is the most difficult way to get on to a college football team (being recruited being the best way, obviously!). However, the majority of schools “leave the door open” for young, talented and ambitious football players to get an opportunity in this way and make the team. Walk-ons often have to earn their spot on the team through tryouts and open competition. You just have to be motivated enough.

TIP: Your personal work ethic and motivation will determine whether walking-on and leaving a scholarship from a different program on the table is worth taking the risk for. Visit the school and football coaches to see if this is a good fit for you before making a decision.

What’s the main difference between a Regular Walk-On’s and Preferred Walk on?

Walk on’s start at the bottom of the depth chart and have to work their way up. A preferred walk-on has already been recruited by the football coaching staff and is considered more talented/desirable than a regular walk-on. Because of this, they have access to more playing time. Preferred walk-ons are seen as players who have the talent and drive to succeed at the D1 level. Although preferred walk-ons don’t get all the same perks as scholarship athletes, they do usually get their own locker room and dress for games. Unlike regular walk-ons, preferred walk-ons are usually guaranteed a spot on the roster and may even be given preferential treatment when it comes to things like playing time and practices. Preferred walk-on’s are provided with the same meals as scholarship athletes. This includes all pregame, post-game, and practice meals (although you should always check with the football coaching staff as programs can vary from school to school).

NOTE: Many schools can offer preferred walk-on’s a certain amount of financial aid usually in the form of books and tuition for their first year on campus.

Do I need to sign anything as a walk-on?

The answer to this is no because you are not receiving an athletic scholarship but, if you are a preferred walk-on you are important to the the team and getting a preferred walk-on spot on the team IS worth celebrating for sure! These are very competitive spots to get so getting one is an achievement.


When deciding if becoming a walk-on is the right path for you, you have to consider many factors. Take a really good look at the school & it’s cultures to see if this lines up well with you, communicate with coaches and get a good understanding of what your role will be and how they run their program, and most importantly, does it financially work for your budget/situation. Some players have been known to turn down a scholarship offer for a chance to compete for their dream D1 program as a preferred walk-on. Other players who don’t want to pass up on a great scholarship from a smaller school leave their dream of playing for a bigger school and opt for the best financial option. At the end of the day it is up to you. Just make sure you are fully informed and have met the football coaching staff in person. Gut feelings count. When you know, you know.


Here you can access the most up-to-date college football openings from college coaches looking for players to fill roster spots

error: Content is protected !!