Demaree: A tough row to hoe for walk-ons

Freshman running back Tevin McCaden, who played his high school football in Lexington, at Bryan Station, is running the walk-on gauntlet. After playing on the scout team in practice all season McCaden is now getting the opportunity to get reps within the Kentucky offense.

One of the beneficial things about bowl invitations is the extra practice. Those are the times when scout team players get a chance to show their stuff. Head coaches would say the walk-ons have an equally good chance to earning playing time.

The real truth is a walk-on has a tough row to hoe. One of the reasons is there is a stigma attached to a walk-on in that if he was that good he would be on scholarship at some other university.

The second thing that goes against a walk-on is the fact that he has no sponsor in a coach that is willing to lobby for him by reason of the fact he recruited him.

The third thing is when they practice during the season they're running the offense and defense of the upcoming opponent. Then when practicing in situations like the present they have to sharpen themselves to run their team's offense and defense.

So goes the plight of the walk-on.

It's obvious that it can be done when we see present players like defensive tackle Luke McDermott, tight end Nick Mellilo, and kicker Craig McIntosh playing key roles.

Former walk-on fullback John Conner is starting in the NFL.

Freshman running back Tevin McCaden 5-foot-8, 200-pounds, a walk-on from Lexington Bryan Station is now running the walk-on gauntlet in an attempt to impress the coaches. Though he hasn't timed in the forty-yard dash since high school, he said he runs a high 4.4, which is plenty fast.

McCaden gained over two thousand yards his senior year despite the fact he suffered a sprained ankle in his eighth game. His forte as a runner was his superb ability to see the field and his toughness. About his running style, he said he likes being a patient runner.

"I've enjoyed it but it's been hard," said a soft-spoken McCaden. "It's been a learning experience."

Many of those that saw a lot of McCaden in high school were miffed as to why he would choose to walk-on at UK, he could have gone elsewhere on scholarship.

"They talked to me before I made my decision," said the youngster. "I like being five minutes from my house."

He said, "I think I have as much talent as anybody here."

He said having to fight through the walk-on syndrome has made him tougher. He said he has no plans to seek another school where he can play quicker.

Joker Phillips was asked how tough it is for a walk-on.

Phillips said, "It is tough on a freshman, period. We give everybody an opportunity to show if they can help this football team."

The coach said that through this period McCaden is getting some good work.

Speaking of Tevin, UK has another Tevin. Tevin Eatmon-Narad is A 6-5 320-pound scholarship freshman offensive tackle that is taking advantage of some quality reps.

"He is getting better everyday," Phillips said. "I like how physical he is being. He is definitely skilled."

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