For Trent Dittmer the plan was simple. After graduating from Cartersville High School in May of 2007, Trent planned to fulfill his lifelong dream of attending the University of Georgia.
Trent enjoyed a successful high school football career at Cartersville. Despite being a very accurate and reliable high school kicker, Trent did not have any scholarship offers to play football in college when he graduated.
For Trent that was fine. “I knew I wanted to attend UGA at a very early age and when I was accepted I knew that was where I wanted to spend the next chapter of my life, even if it meant not playing football.”
In the summer of 2007 things began to change. Trent was offered a scholarship to play football at Tuskegee University. After their punter became ineligible, Trent knew that he could be the starting punter as a freshman. Despite that opportunity, Trent made the decision to go with his heart and attend Georgia. Walking on at UGA was certainly an option, but it was not the priority.
Next up was the Georgia-Tennessee high school All Star game. As fate would have it, Trent met Marc Feuerbach, a kicking instructor who was also working with Georgia Tech kicker, Scott Blair. Feuerbach told Trent to call him if he wanted to work with him. Trent did just that, and began to work with Feuerbach.
Trent saw immediate results. “Up to that point I had never considered playing college football, but I began to work with Marc and I instantly saw improvement. I eventually decided to try and walk on that fall. I figured I had nothing to lose.”
So as a freshman, Trent went to tryouts, but did not make the team. The coaches told him to keep working hard and come back in the spring. Trent took their advice, and continued to work on his punting.
He made the team that following season, and was officially a Georgia Bulldog. Trent was living the dream of many young men all over the great state of Georgia.
Most college football teams have roughly 40 roster spots that are given to walk-ons. These walk-on players are then used to put together the scout team. Many college football fans are aware of the scout team. But few realize just how hard these players work, and how much they contribute to the success of the team.
Every Saturday we see the results of all that hard work.
Each week the scout team’s job is to run the opposing team’s offense, defense, and special teams. If the scout team does their job and simulates the opposing team’s plays, formations, and tendencies, the starters will be prepared for success on Saturday.
Trent has been a valuable member of the scout team at UGA. Twice this past season Trent was awarded “Scout Team Player of the Week.” This award is given each week to the three scout team players who excel on offense, defense, and special teams.
Trent told me, “I was selected by the coaches following the Vanderbilt game for special teams scout team player of the week, and after the Auburn game for defensive scout team player of the week.” Dittmer is not aware of any other specialist (kicker or punter) winning the defensive scout team player award.
You won’t read about these rewards in the game stats or in the recap. But the players and coaches know how valuable the scout team players are.
Trent was rewarded for his contributions this season when he was allowed to dress out and travel to the Georgia Tech game. Since the SEC allows only 85 players to dress out for home games, and 70 players for away games, that opportunity is a big deal.
This season, he dressed out for the Arizona State, Tennessee Tech, Georgia Tech, and Texas A&M games. If you’re counting, the team was 4-0 when Trent dressed.
Sounds like a lot of hard work with little reward doesn’t it?
As a scout team player you practice just like the starters, but the starters get most of the praise. You play through injury and give it all you have every day, but on Saturday chances are you won’t dress out or travel with the team.
So what’s the best part of being on a scout team? Trent can tell you. “The best part of being on the scout team is watching one of the starters make a play because of something you did during the week.”
“Since I am the scout team punter, the punt return and block team work all week to block my punts during practice. Whenever they block one in a game, I have a certain pride in being part of that play,” Trent told me.
For Trent, very little has changed since he left the friendly confines of Cartersville High School. After all, it was not about being a star on the college football field. It was about going to the University of Georgia and fulfilling that lifelong dream.
I asked Trent, what’s the best thing about being a Georgia Bulldog? His answer was simple. “the best thing is the fans… without the fans, UGA football would never be what it is today. We are truly blessed to have the best fans in the country.”
So the next time you see a punt blocked, or a defense shut down a high powered triple option offense, look past the success you see on the field.
Look for that scout team player that is smiling on the sidelines. Without those 40 or so players and their effort every week, success might be hard to find.