Preferred walk-ons are not discussed in the same manner as scholarship recruits. However, even if they never see the field, they can have a big impact on a program as they push players in practice. Ximi Asani accepted a preferred walk-on offer at Syracuse after a difficult year.
"I was first contacted by Coach Pat Perles," Asani recalled. "He told me they were really impressed with my highlight tape and would be willing to offer me a preferred walk-on after checking about the numbers on the team. He told me right then that I would be third string as a true freshman at guard even though I'm a defensive tackle.
"He said they like to recruit athletic defensive linemen to play offensive line. But with low numbers at both offensive line and defensive line, I could be at either one."
Asani was excited about the contact with Syracuse. Things still were in flux and he was waiting for a guarantee from the Orange.
"I was excited but wasn't getting my hopes up yet because he didn't guarantee it until a couple weeks later," Asani explained. "I was actually coming home from Kansas State when he was able to guarantee it.
"I didn't visit Syracuse until the Spring Game last weekend. Simply because I had been on a lot of recruiting visits in the last month with signing day approaching and wanted to take a break from visits. Just knowing about Syracuse academics and sports, I didn't absolutely need to visit to make a decision."
Asani feels he wasn't receiving division one scholarship interest because of an injury he suffered early on during his senior season. The schools in the mix were far from his Madison (WI) home. However, his family told him to make the best decision regardless of distance.
"It was overall a stressful year for me," Asani claimed. "Tearing my ACL the second game of my senior year but they (his family) just told me to follow my heart. They wanted me to be close to home but if it didn't work out, it would be fine if I wasn't close to home.
"Purdue and Kansas State were in the mix about maybe offering a preferred walk-on. I had a 1-AA offer from Valparaiso and a preferred walk-on at Fordham. They were going to offer me a scholarship at Fordham but they were out of scholarships for defensive line. Purdue liked me a lot, but again the numbers didn't work out with them for a preferred walk-on."
In the end, Asani took Syracuse up on their preferred walk-on offer. There were a few factors that stood out about the Orange to the 6-foot-1 prospect.
"The academics stood out a lot," Asani declared. "Not a lot of people go to the NFL so having a degree from a prestigious school is important. That and the fact that Coach Perles was able to guarantee a preferred walk-on right away made Syracuse stand out to me.
"Coach Perles just expected it. He was telling me that I am a good player and that I would be treated exactly the same as scholarship players. My family was just relived that my torn ACL didn't, in the end, affect me playing for a high level division one program. It's a huge relief to have a dream come true to be playing BCS football but I'm going to keep working hard."
With the process over, Asani can now focus on football once again. One of the reasons he chose Syracuse is the chance to earn a scholarship if he works hard and develops. That is one of his goals as he looks towards his career in Orange.
"My goal for me is earning a starting spot," Asani said. "And for the team is to be playing in the BCS bowl game. Syracuse will be getting a highly motivated, high motor, fast defensive tackle that wreaks havoc on opposing offenses on the field. Off the field I am funny, smart, and really friendly."
Asani will join the Orange this summer and be part of the team for their inaugural ACC season.