Senior day: These walk-ons put in the work

The University of Louisville football program will say goodbye to 13 seniors during the Cardinals' final home game on Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The senior class is not only small but consists of eight players who started their careers at U of L as preferred walk-ons.

It's not a very big senior class for the University of Louisville football team.

But on Saturday those 13 players in the senior class will walk on to the field at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. And for some, it will be the end of a dream that started off as a preferred walk-on with the Cardinals.

Only five players remain in the class that started their careers as scholarship players with the Cardinals. The other eight have endured a lot of blood, sweat and tears to try and work their way into position to play.

"It's a great accomplishment and it's tough," wide receiver Scott Radcliff said. "It just shows that this class had to go through a lot to get to where we're at."

Radcliff, a former star at Trinity High School, is joined in the class by former Trinity teammates quarterback Will Stein and offensive lineman Alex Kupper. All three came to U of L off state championship teams and walked on.

"If you love playing football, its not that difficult," Kupper said of walking on and earning playing time. "Having guys like that who just love the game of football and do whatever it takes to keep on playing, that's what this class can be remembered as. I think that's what we'll be remembered for.

"We accepted that hard-work concept and took it and ran with it."

Stein is the backup quarterback this season but started the first three games of last season before he was injured. Kupper has started 24 straight games and U of L coach Charlie Strong called him the team's "best offensive lineman." Radcliff has been a key receiver for the Cardinals and also returns punts.

But there are others who walked on and now contribute.

Nick Heuser was a linebacker at St. Xavier High School but is now the top fullback for the Cardinals and has two touchdown catches this season.

All four of those players started as walk-on players only later to be added to the list of players with a scholarship.

DeMarcus Topp is a walk on from Paducah Tilghman and a key special teams performer. He has five special teams tackles this season.

Other walk ons playing their final game will be Jeffersonville, Ind., linebacker Chris Zelli, former St. X wide receiver Stephen Goodwin and former Manual fullback Bo Eggers.

"It speaks volumes of their work ethic," Strong said. "So many of those guys were walk ons, and you think, ‘Wow'.

"But they stayed with the program and got better and better and went about their work. A lot of times when guys work hard, good things will happen for them. If you look at all of those guys, they have contributed something to our program."

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