Wednesday was a big day for five Arizona State walk-on football players.
Head coach Todd Graham announced in a team meeting that defensive back Jordan Simone, wide receiver Frederick Gammage, offensive lineman Chip Sarafin, and linebackers Jason Franklin and Brandon Matthews were all awarded with scholarships.
Luckily for us, cameras were on-hand to capture the emotional moment. It was an awesome scene.
Simone, a redshirt junior who transferred from Washington State, broke down in tears of joy after earning his scholarship. He told ASUDevils.com later on Wednesday that the news that he is a scholarship player had yet to sink in.
“I can’t say thanks enough to coach for giving us all the opportunity and I’m so happy for these guys too, they’ve worked their tail off. It’s only going to make me work harder, I’m really excited,” Simone said.
Simone has been on the two-deep depth chart at safety throughout preseason camp and is in the running to land a starting spot. Additionally, Simone is also expected to make an impact on special teams for the Sun Devils.
Gammage, a redshirt sophomore from Phoenix, caught six passes for 32 yards last season, and is expected to see increased action in the upcoming season.
“I had meetings with coach Graham and he said I’m on the right track, just keep taking care of your grades and keep working and you’ll eventually get one and it worked out,” Gammage said.
Sarafin, a fifth-year senior, recently made news when he became the first active Division I college football player to come out publicly as gay. Now in his fifth season on the scout team, Graham decided to reward him for his hard work.
“We talk to our guys about investment. Chip is going into his fifth year – a graduate,” Graham said. “We were excited to do that.”
Sarafin, who is working on his master’s degree, said it “felt great” to be put on scholarship.
“There are a lot of deserving walk-ons on our team, and for coach Graham to select me – I feel very honored and blessed for that,” Sarafin said.
Franklin, a junior, and Matthews, a redshirt freshman, are both expected to contribute on special teams in 2014.
“I don’t think there are a lot of schools around that are putting that much investment into their walk-ons and I know our guys walking on here are motivated,” Graham said. “If you work hard and do things the right way, maybe you’re not the best guy, but there’s a place for you.”
Above all, Graham said that the best part was the reaction from the rest of the team.
“Every one of the guys I have a scholarship to obviously was very emotional and thanked me, but I got more from all the other players saying ‘Hey coach, thanks, that meant a lot to your team, those guys really deserve that,’” Graham said.
With preseason camp in the books, Graham and the Sun Devils will turn their attention to a week one matchup against Weber State at home next Thursday.
For more Arizona State news, visit ASUDevils.com.
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