They are the few, the proud, the indispensable. They are the walk-ons. They are more than just guys holding dummies and clipboards. These young men are paying their own way through school and busting their backsides everyday just for the honor of donning the Crimson and White and running into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturdays in the fall.
FROM RAGS TO RICHES
Most walk-ons will never make the highlights on ESPN Sportscenter. But then there are the truly special who work their way onto the field and into the starting line-ups. One of the most famous of these is Rashad Johnson. The unheralded safety had no Division I-A college scholarship offers but wound up becoming an All-American at Bama highlighted by a three-interception night in Baton Rouge in 2008. He was a third round draft pick by the where he currently is about to begin his seventh NFL season.
Some walk-ons go on to fine coaching careers such as Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney who walked on at Alabama in the early 1990s and was part of the 1992 National Championship team on which he caught four balls for 48 yards.
Carson Tinker is another recent walk-on to find a full-time gig in the NFL, entering his third season as the long snapper for Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Tide has also had many kickers and punters of note walk their way onto the big stage.
Every year there is a guy or two who contributes to the team from walk-on status. Some of the following may be the next.
- This will be the fifth season in the Crimson Tide program for former Hoover High school standout Michael Nysewander. He saw action on special teams and at H-Back this past season. Against Western Carolina he scored on a 12-yard reception from Jake Coker. He also tallied a nine-yard catch against Southern Miss. Nysewander is battling for the starting position vacated by Jalston Fowler. [BTW, AJ's kid brother Corey McCarron has grad-transferred to Middle Tennessee State.]
- Parker Barrineau is also a rising senior who has seem some game time. As a sophomore in 2013, the Northport, Ala. wide receiver recorded two catches for 16 yards. He was a regular on special teams last season and backed up Christion Jones and Chris Black at H wide receiver.
[Before you ask, yes these two guys were put on scholarship in the spring after the departure of juniors Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins. But it was JUST for the spring semester.]
- After starting placekicker Adam Griffith suffered back injuries, freshman Gunnar Raborn was called on to kick and converted two field goals in three attempts and nine extra points in 10 attempts (one was blocked). The Lafayette, La. native reminds some people of Jeremy Shelley in that he is accurate but does not possess a long leg. His younger brother Bailey Raborn has committed to kick for UCLA in 2016.
UP & COMING?
- If the name Jamey Mosley sounds familiar, it should. He is the younger brother of All-American LB and current All-Pro Baltimore Ravens LB C.J. Mosley. Jamey turned down scholarship offers from Western Kentucky, UAB (good move), Tulane, and Old Dominion to follow his dreams to Tuscaloosa. He took a redshirt last season but don't be surprised to see him on special teams in the near future.
- The most unlikeliest of treks to the Capstone has surely been taken by Derrick Gore. From high school in Syracuse, N.Y., he enrolled at Milford Academy prep school. After not getting any looks from FBS schools, the running back chose a path to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. After a late July visit to Tuscaloosa, the true sophomore chose a preferred walk-on role at Alabama just prior to fall camp beginning. Despite his late start, he has at times been seen running in the number four spot in practice. With the depth issues at running back for Bama, Gore could see some playing time this season. He has four years to play three.