6 Tips for Becoming a College Football Walk-on

July 19, 2022 by Staff

You’ve always dreamed about playing college football but weren’t actively scouted in high school. If this sentence describes you (or someone you know), it’s not yet time to give up hope.

Walking on to your university’s football team is more achievable than you may think.  You just need to work harder than everyone else and think outside the box.

To help you on this journey here’s a handy list of tips you can implement to increase your chances of becoming a college walk-on.  

1. Hit the Gym and Strive for Peak Strength

There are fewer sports more physically demanding than football. So before you step into the locker room, it’s vital that you’re at your physical peak.

But what’s the best way to train for college football?

The NFL emphasizes stretching as an excellent way to gain more range of motion, while a dynamic warmup will increase the core temperature of the muscles.  Stretching prepares the muscles and joints for the workout up ahead.

Then, you'll want to integrate running and agility drills.  Drills are a great way to mimic movements that'll typically occur during a game. And, of course, you want to strengthen your body through weight lifting.

It helps if you switch up your workouts weekly. For example, for one week, you might do the bench press with a light weight for 10-12 repetitions.

The following week, you would perform the same exercise at a more moderate weight for six to eight repetitions. Finally, during the third week, you would perform the bench press at a heavy weight for three to five repetitions.

By doing so, you’re constantly forcing your body to adapt to new stimuli.  A rotation results in better strength and size gains that will help you dominate on the field.

2. Familiarize Yourself with the School’s Roster & Coaches

If you’re a fantasy football player (and who isn’t), you’ve likely done your fair share of player research.  I mean, outside of brainstorming fantasy team names, knowing the players inside and out is one way to gain an advantage against your league-mates.

Now apply those research skills to the roster for your university’s team. Pay special attention to the positions where you’re trying to earn a spot.  Focusing on your position will give you a good idea of your competition.

It will also show you the vulnerable spots on the opposing side of the ball.  At tryouts, you can focus on exploiting these weaknesses.
In addition to researching the players, it’s also wise to familiarize yourself with the coaching staff.  Identify the positional coaches you’d likely work with and drop by their office for a chat. 

Being fresh in the coach’s mind will help you stand out in the sea of other players attempting to walk on.

3. Prep with Agility Drill to Build Explosive Strength

If you want to be a college walk-on, you can’t rely solely on brute strength.  In college football, strength is essential, but speed kills.

Whether dodging a tackle or sprinting for the ball, you will need to be faster than the competition if you expect to play at the college level.  Studies have shown that agility training correlates heavily with football performance.

Leading coaches commonly employ plyometrics to enhance explosiveness. Simple cone and ladder drills can help you become faster on your feet.

Want to increase your vertical leap? Try this exercise:

1. Get a 24 to 36-inch wooden box and place it roughly twelve to eighteen inches in front of you.
2. Bend at the knees before exploding up with all the strength you can muster.
3. Climb off the box and rest for one to two minutes before repeating.

Perform this exercise three to five times before your weight training protocol starts. Standing long jumps and burpees are two commonly used protocols for building explosive strength.

4. Get Your Diet in Check

What you put into your body determines what you get out of it. It’s a common adage in the weight loss community that you can’t outrun a poor diet.  But for most football players, weight loss is the last thing on their minds.

As a prospective collegiate athlete, you will need to match the fitness and size of other players at your position. Left tackles are typically heftier than quarterbacks, so the former may have to up their calorie count while the latter will be comfortable at a more svelte weight.

Regardless of the position you end up playing, some eating habits are universally lauded. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to maintain your immune system, and drink plenty of water.

To build muscle, it’s imperative that you load up on protein: eat one gram of protein per every pound you weigh.  So, a 158 lb man should eat 158 grams of protein to maximize muscle gain.

Fine-tuning your weight is easier than it sounds, but there many diets that can help you achieve your goals.  For instance, in the popular GOMAD diet (gallon of milk a day) you can put on solid slabs of muscle without breaking the bank. A gallon of whole milk has 128 grams of protein and 2,400 calories.

Why whole milk? Aside from upping your protein intake, you will also want to consume large quantities of healthy fats. Counterintuitive though it may sound, fat is vital for regulating your hormone levels.

5. Make Friends with Current Players

There are several advantages to being friends with players on the football team.  And I’m not just talking about getting into the coolest parties!

For one, you’ll have a friend “on the inside” who can put in a word for you.  If one of your buddies has the coach’s ear, that could be an easy way to earn a workout.

Speaking of workouts, why not join your friends during weight training sessions?  You can align your lifting goals with theirs, making it easier to transition should you make the team.

Finally, players can keep you abreast of the positions where the team is lacking.  If you think you can help them plug a hole, you can try to emphasize those skills when tryouts come around.

6. Study the Coaching Style and Tendencies

Offensive and defensive strategies are among the key differentiators between collegiate football programs. Understanding how your university’s football coach likes to run their program will give you a leg up on the competition when it comes time for college walk-on try-outs.

Does the head coach favor more aggressive or more conservative tactics?  Are they most impressed by high-effort players in practice?  Then you know how to stand out.

Final Thoughts

Few players have what it takes to play at the collegiate football level.  But that hasn’t stopped the hundreds of players who walk on to these football programs every year.

Some of the top players in the annals of American football were late bloomers.  And if you’re willing to put in the hard work to be successful, there’s no reason you can’t be a walk-on as well.