"Walk-ons have always been important to me and our staff," was a comment that Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy used in a team meeting in August as he presented scholarships to three walk-on Cowboys.
Oklahoma State has a walk-on wall on the locker room level of the West End Zone that celebrates some of the walk-ons that have contributed the most to the program in the Gundy era. Guaranteeing that walk-ons continue to be important to the Cowboys program is assistant recruiting coordinator Mike Groce, who is single-handedly collecting a plethora of talent that are coming to Stillwater and the OSU program as preferred walk-ons.
They are invited and don't have to go through tryouts and many have turned down scholarship offers to do so. Starting center Brad Lundblade, who is now on scholarship, is an example. There are others on the team right now such as Cole Neph, who is an outstanding athlete that served as scout team quarterback preparing for the Cactus Bowl a year ago.
Just today it was revealed that two more preferred walk-ons in line to report to Oklahoma State are twin brothers Zach and Cade Smith. The two standouts from Pleasanton, Texas have scholarship offers from the likes of Army, Air Force, Utah State, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and a preferred invitation from Michigan.
Cade is the bigger of the two at 6-3, 225 pounds and earned first-team All-District 15-4A1 honors at linebacker, while brother Zach is a safety that likely will grow into a linebacker as he is 6-4, 210 pounds.
Zach was an honorable mention All-District safety this past season. Zach is also pretty outstanding in the classroom as he has a 3.7 GPA and a 1650 SAT score. Cade is a good student as well.
Now a walk-on doesn't actually count on the roster officially until he arrives and practices or attends a class on campus. Groce has a number of players lined up to join the Cowboys. They all seem to be enthusiastic and the fact that so many walk-ons at Oklahoma State have gone on to play and contribute and then be placed on scholarship.
That helps but you have to count Groce and the work he goes through in watching tape, contacting coaches, and sending out mail and correspondence in addition to getting players on campus as part of the process of adding so many extra talented players to Stillwater.