Life of a Walk-on

CLEMSON - On Internet message boards, he's already reached legendary status. It could even be said that Clemson fans are expecting to see him impose his will on opposing defenses later this fall.

After rushing for a combined 20 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown in his first two spring games, how could expectations be any higher?

Some even think he could be the difference between nine or 10 wins this season.

No, this isn't another blurb on C.J. Spiller, the star recruit expected to challenge former ACC Rookie of the Year James Davis for playing time.

No, this could only be Paul Macko.

While only the diehard Clemson fans truly know about this walk-on from Wadsworth, Ohio, Macko puts in his time just like all the running backs in hopes of seeing the field this season.

"That's obviously a goal of mine," said Macko. "I want to help the team in any way I can. I'll definitely be there. If it's only a few carries, I'm going to pour my heart into those carries."

Of course, while it may look good on paper, life as a walk-on isn't exactly a walk in the park.

There are the bumps and bruises suffered from being on the scout team. There's the lack of recognition by the fans and media. And there's also the considerable amount of time involved in going to practices and working out, knowing full well you may never get a chance to see the field.

But a quick conversation with Macko reveals there also plenty of positives that come from being a non-scholarship player.

"Life as a walk on- has its rewards," said Macko. "It definitely does. Being a part of this great tradition. The fans are great here. It's unreal coming out on the field whether you are going to play or just on the sideline enjoying it.

"It can be difficult at times because of all the time involved. It's real time consuming. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. The way I look at it, I'm living the dream."

With four running backs ahead of him on the roster, including a fifth-year senior, the former ACC Rookie of the Year and one of the top high school prospects in the country from a year ago, Macko's dreams of seeing the field this season may be just that - dreams. But at the same time he also gets a front row seat at what may be one of the best running back tandems to step on the field in Death Valley in the last 20 years.

Macko said that the emergence of Spiller should give the Tigers a formidable one-two punch for at least the next two seasons.

"He comes here with the same expectations that James came here with last year," said Macko. "And James lived up to all the hype. I think C.J. is very willing. I think he has shown a lot of potential but James and him have very different types of running styles.

"C.J. is kind of a water bug type. Real shifty in the hole and James kind of has the good balance power, speed and agility. They are definitely they are two different kinds of backs but they are both very good."

And for all the Macko fans out there, don't worry- there's still a better than average chance he'll see the field more than the two carries he had in 2005.

"I'm along for the ride and wherever it takes me it takes me," he said. "I'm just happy to be a part of it."

And if the Internet hype wasn't already enough, just ask senior kicker Jad Dean, who quipped when he saw Macko giving an interview, "By the end of this year people are going to be saying, 'Spiller who?'" he said with a smile.

Ah yes. The life of a walk-on is good indeed.

CUTigers.com Top Stories