College Football's Diary of a Walk-On: Part One

The SportmeistersAnalyst IFebruary 16, 2009

by Ryan of The Sportmeisters

Harris Kaufman is 6’3’’, 220 pounds, and runs a 4.64 40. He’s also a college junior with one year of high school football experience. But he has heart, grit, and determination—so much so that he plans to try out for the Florida State football team.

Over the next few weeks (and hopefully months), Sportmeisters will document Harris’s experience. We are all familiar with the five-star recruits who get all the glory and expectations, but what about the little guy trying to earn his shot? We’re going to find out.

Florida State Football was known as the team of the '90s, racking up two national championships and being a factory to develop the next big NFL star. However, as the years went on, the competition got tougher, and while the Seminoles are still an ACC factor, they have yet to regain the swagger they carried a decade ago.

Despite the mini-collapse, Florida State still brings in the big guns, with six of their last eight recruiting classes ranking in the top five. However, for one reason or another, the Seminoles have not had the killer instinct they once did. Is it the lack of passion from the recruits? Is it coaching? The options are numerous, but the point remains the same: Florida State is a shell of their once dominant ways.

Walk-ons are the scrubs of the team. Like the movie Rudy, they bust their butt to make up for their athletic shortcomings, hoping, dreaming, of the one play they might get into. We rarely hear about their trials to earn their opportunity, but there are always a few exceptions. Harris Kaufman is trying to be one of those exceptions.

Kaufman isn’t here just to earn a jersey, as he says anyone can get one from the clothing store. No, he is here not just to make the team, but also to contribute with his one year remaining of eligibility. With his history, he might just get that opportunity.

Harris didn’t play much football in high school, earning just one varsity letter as a high school junior while playing safety. Instead, the military was his first calling, and after receiving his diploma, he enrolled in The Citadel in South Carolina. After his fall semester, however, Harris changed his tune and transferred to Florida State University.

Football never entered the mind, despite a strong work ethic developed from his military training—but a fall home game at Doak Campbell Stadium during his sophomore year changed everything.

Harris states that “the energy and passion I felt while sitting in the stands at Doak was something I wanted to experience for myself.” Already an avid weightlifter, a chance meeting with former FSU offensive guard Matt Meinrod at the gym led to a training program designed to help Harris reach his goal. He combined that with fraternity brother and FSU student coach Matt Shechter’s assistance, and Harris was able to officially apply for the right to be a walk-on.

Since then, Harris has changed his dream of being an FSU player to a lifestyle, constantly in training mode, watching FSU highlights on YouTube, almost turning it into an obsession.

The road for Harris isn’t always smooth, but he’s blessed with a strong support system. Despite his friends brushing the idea off as laughable, Harris’s determination has never been stronger. His girlfriend Becky comes from a family pedigree of football players, from her dad to her brothers, and all of them have been completely supportive, offering as many tips and pieces of information as Harris can hold.

His family has also pledged complete support, to where his own father, a rival University of Florida graduate, has agreed to sport the FSU garnet and gold to support his son.

The road to glory is not an easy one, and Harris recognizes this. With around 35 guys (20 from last season) fighting for 25 spots, the competition is fierce. February 24th is his one shot, his “fourth and one” to take everything he has learned over the last year of training and prove it to the coaching staff. From there comes a whole new frame of mind for Harris, one very few get to experience.

The Sportmeisters will document Harris’s experience, from his tryout, and should he make the team, through Spring Football on forward. We hope you join us in the Diary of a Walk-On.