As a walk-on player, Tyler McClure knows it about as well as anyone: Nothing is guaranteed.
Walk-ons practice with the team and dress for games. They study in the film room with the rest of the players. They spend as much time on football as anyone else in the locker room.
They are a part of the team, but are different in one way.
“You got all these other guys that are on scholarship and they’re getting their school paid for, and you got to pay your own way,” said McClure, an Arizona State redshirt senior center. “Worrying about school and how you can afford to pay for it, you got to take out loans, all that other stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s football. You can’t let that distract you from performing.”
McClure, who prepped local at Chandler High School was ASU’s backup center last season. But when starter A.J. McCollum missed some time due to personal reasons, McClure’s opportunity came.
McClure made his first career start in ASU’s Oct. 22 home game against Washington State. It signified fulfillment. It meant he belonged.
All the hard work in practice, the weight room, film room and even outside of football had finally paid off. He was contributing to his team’s effort. And perhaps most importantly, he continued to make his parents proud.
“It was a little overwhelming at first,” he said. “Before, I definitely had butterflies and stuff and was a little bit nervous, but once I got out there, it was just like practice pretty much. Everything kind of zones out when you’re playing. You don’t really worry about the fans and stuff, you just kind of focus on beating the man in front of you and helping your team win.”
Although McClure played in six games in 2016, he still wasn’t on scholarship. He isn’t bitter about it, but instead was honest.
He knows he gave it his all, but believes if the coaches didn’t award him a scholarship, he just didn’t earn it. That could soon change.
ASU head coach Todd Graham said McClure is competing for the starting center job and could possible earn a scholarship.
“He’s worked his tail off,” Graham said.
There are two former Sun Devils walk-ons who earned scholarships and went on to play a big role for the team: safety Jordan Simone and wide receiver Frederick Gammage. McClure wants to be the next in line.
“When you see those guys actually get it, it makes it feel more real that it could be for you,” McClure said. “You kind of put yourself in their shoes, so to speak. When you see them get it, they’re super excited, super happy, all their hard work’s paid off. That’s something you definitely want to see for yourself.”
On the field, the competition won’t be easy. McCollum earned most first-team reps throughout team tempo sessions during the beginning of ASU’s spring practice slate. However, McClure is just as much a factor.
Alabama transfer quarterback Blake Barnett said he doesn’t see in a flaw in either of the two centers.
“I’d say they both do a great job, they’re both doing a great job at leading, because that’s also a leadership role on the offense,” he said.
That leadership role is McClure’s favorite part of being a center. He gets to make the calls, he communicates with the others. He forms a relationship with the quarterback.
McClure treats the starting center competition as he has his pursuit of a scholarship. He will obviously give his best, but he can’t control the outcome. However, he makes sure he brings a positive attitude.
And most of all, he needs to bring what has helped carry him so far. The quality that has put him in position to achieve his goal of earning that prized scholarship. The first characteristic he would want his coaches to talk about.
His hard work.
“I don’t want people to not see that in me,” McClure said.