By nature, a preferred walk-on's college football life is built upon instability. Their places on a team are not secure, and without the benefit of a scholarship, they must rely on self-faith alone.
Two University of Toledo football players know the feeling well, but their titles now must be amended. Drake Fletcher and Ricky Pringle aren't walk-ons anymore.
Toledo coach Matt Campbell called both players to the front of the room after a team meeting Thursday and told them, in front of the entire team, they both were being awarded full scholarships.
“Both those young guys earned it,” Campbell said. “It was a pretty neat moment in the team meeting to be able to bring those two up and reward those guys with scholarships.”
It was the culmination of two long waiting periods and many years of uncertainty for two players who capitalized on second chances. Pringle, a senior running back, originally committed to Ohio out of high school, but left the program after one year and did not play football in 2011. A Buffalo, native, he and his family looked for a school within driving range that had his major, mechanical engineering. When Pringle called home, his mother, Carla, and father, Timothy Sr., were elated.
“She started freaking out and everything,” Pringle said. “Then my dad got on the phone and he said, ‘Congrats, son. You worked your butt off on this one. I might need a little drink to this one.’ ”
Fletcher, a senior linebacker from Cincinnati Roger Bacon, had FBS interest from Louisville and Ohio, but did not meet requirements to be academically eligible. Toledo offered him the opportunity to greyshirt — on which a player pays his own way through school — and try out for the team when he became eligible.
A communications/public relations major with a minor in marketing, Fletcher turned around his grades and kept himself in the coaches’ good graces on the field.
“I believe it was probably the best thing I could've done,” Fletcher said. “If I had jumped into playing football right away, my academics wouldn't be my first priority.”
Hearing they were on scholarship has led to a week of congratulations for both players.
“All my teammates were happy for me, and of course my parents,” Fletcher said. “It just proves that hard work pays off.”
As full-fledged scholarship players, Fletcher and Pringle no longer have to worry about tuition, and Toledo filled the final two of 85 scholarship spots with players in whom it has confidence. Pringle's touchdown run against Buffalo last season clinched a win; Fletcher made a name for himself on special teams.
“I think it's pretty hard for a guy that isn't on scholarship to stay four years in a program, and all of the sudden get rewarded. I think that's what you appreciate from that standpoint,” Campell said. “I think [the football] piece of the puzzle has helped us, but I think it's also great to reward these young people that have earned the right to be put on scholarship.”