College Football's Diary of a Walk-On: Part 2

The SportmeistersAnalyst IFebruary 28, 2009

This is a second installment of The Sportmeisters chronicling Harris Kaufman’s journey onto the Florida State University football team. You can catch all the previous installments at The Sportmeisters.

by Ryan of The Sportmeisters

Stephen Covey once wrote in “7 Habits” to begin with the end in mind. For Harris Kaufman, the end result was successfully walking onto the Florida State football team. On Tuesday, Feb. 24, he got his chance.

Heading into the tryout, Harris was an emotional wreck. He couldn’t sleep, was second guessing himself, and it got to the point where he had be left alone to let his thoughts develop.

Music and motivational YouTube speeches of Bobby Bowden helped keep his mind in the right frame. Despite the support of friends and family, Harris later recalled it as “the most intense feeling of my life, and I never want to have that feeling again.”

At 3 p.m. on the 24th, Harris stepped onto the lacrosse practice field at Florida State, ready to make his one impression and take the chance so many dream about, but so few achieve.

Walking in, Harris tried to keep the same cool, calm demeanor that has served him well as a military student, keeping to himself so as not to show any potential signs of weakness against the 25 guys all vying for the spot he so desperately wanted himself.

DE Coach Jody Allen and his student assistants led the walk-on tryout, and after some stretching, they all got ready for the football staple: The 40-yard dash.

Harris made sure to position himself close to the back of the pack, again, trying to keep a quiet demeanor, letting his feelings and emotions only come out on the field.

He would run by himself the first time, and blew out his challenger in the second run. Times were not disclosed to the players, but Harris felt he ran comfortable enough at the time to make a positive impression.

From the 40 came the agility drills, and from backpedaling to barrel rolls, Harris felt like he had been through all of this before.

In fact, he had, thanks to his training with former FSU Offensive Guard Matt Meinrod. This gave Harris an advantage, and even he admits he started to gain a little bit of the swagger and confidence so many of his friends know him to carry.

This confidence was also brought on by Harris’s competition. While Harris was going 100%, the levels of adrenaline started increasing, allowing him to feel stronger and faster than the other 24 guys.

While they sucked for air and gulped water due to improper preparation, Harris was ready for more. However, the try-out had to end eventually, and around 4pm, Coach Allen called the hopefuls over.

He thanked them, and told them it would take a few days to make some decisions, but, there were a few spots they needed bodies for now, and a few who shined bright enough already.

Despite being one of only two Tight Ends trying out, Harris had to compete with 24 other guys hoping to wear the garnet and gold next fall.

Then Coach Allen started calling out the names. After the first three names were called, Harris heard himself being selected as one of the walk-ons for Florida State University’s football program.

Ever the military cadet, he kept in his excitement until he reached his car later on that evening following some administrative events.

Once in his car, Harris let out a scream and immediately called his family and his girlfriend, all who were overcome with extreme emotion, as they now had a football player on their hands. Harris had achieved his dream.

After a couple of days to celebrate his birthday and revel in the goal he had just reached, on Friday the 27th, Harris took the next step to playing on Saturdays by getting measured for all his pads.

Upon entering the locker room, Harris waited his turn with the other six new walk-on selectees. Being the last one gave Harris some more time to reflect on where he was and what he had accomplished.

Finally, Harris heard his name called and walked into the locker room, where the first thing he saw was framed lockers reflecting some of Florida State’s best.

Names like Chris Weinke and Deion Sanders were right in front of his face. It was definitely an amazing moment, Harris later recalled.

In the training room, Harris was measured for all of his pads, but did say that the coolest part was picking out his own facemask. Following that, they gave him his equipment and pointed him to his locker, which just happens to be right across from starting Quarterback Christian Ponder.

It was at this moment Harris truly realized that he was now a member of the Florida State football program, and on March 16th, when Spring Practice begins, the time will come for Harris to continue his quest as a walk-on.