Wednesday, February 6th is signing day. Many athletes signed in December during the early period, but plenty held out and make things official Wednesday.
Several athletes however will pass on scholarships and take a chance with A-State
Preferred Walk -ons...
Meaning they'll receive no scholarship money but the Red Wolves staff know who they are and encouraged them to try out.
Sounds risky right? Not to these guys.
Trumann running back Cade Gartman, Harrisburg wide receiver Gavin Casebier, Brookland Quarterback Reid Lane, Pocahontas offensive lineman Jake Hardage and Jonesboro kicker/punter Collin Crawford will be taking their chances with A-State.
Ever since I've been growing up my dream has always been to play division one football," Gartman said.
He did it all at the high school level, just ask his coach.
"Had over 70 touchdowns close to 5,000 yards rushing so he's a special player," Trumann Football Coach Scott Waymire said.
Over the past three seasons, No one had their named called on FFN more than Trumann's Cade Gartman
"I've always heard I'm too small to play D-1 ball, not big enough, not fast enough and I just like to prove people wrong so I'm going to try and do that," added Gartman.
Listed at 5'10, 185 pounds, Gartman is stronger than he looks. He'e been trucking over defensive players for a while. And A-State likes what they see.
"At Arkasnas State they want me to play running back and like he told me don't change anything when you come in here, just like high school don't think cause they're bigger and stuff, just come in here and you'll get the job done."
"I'm biased but he's not just one of the better football players here in northeast Arkansas, he's a better kid," Waymire pointed out. "And he's a guy they won't have to worry about. He's going to do all the things right. On the field and off the field and do those things and he's a guy you'd want in your program."
There's a lot of things coaches can teach but height isn't one of them. Harriburg's Gavin Casebier is listed at 6-4 and will try to make the team as a wide receiver.
"It's always something I wanted to do. It wasn't downgrading to me to go down to play division two football somewhere especially if it was paid for but it was just something in my heart I wanted to do," Casebier said.
And he knows the odds are stacked against him
"I know I'm coming in as a walkon, there are guys they've seen more of, they thought more of and and they offered me money but I know I will I have to come in and work ten times harder than everybody else and know that everytime I do make a mistake or something in practice that is going to be times ten of the scholarship guys."
However, his high school coach, Aaron Thornton, believes there's more upside than risk."Big, six-four kid, catches the ball well, runs well, but one thing that really separates him apart is he blocks really well. He enjoys being physical, he likes that aspect and I think at the next level that's going to be very important for him to have success."
Brookland's Reid Lane is another local athlete who passed on a sure scholarship from smaller schools. To him it's worth it. A-State is his dream school.
"They said it was going to be tough. I'm willing to take on that challenge, willing to put forth the work, get the job done as much as I can. I knew ahead of time it was going to be tough to get to where we need to be to be able to play," Lane said.
And his high school coach gave him great advice.
As a walk-on you have to be willing to take your lumps do all the small things right so you have to have the mindset to know you are at the bottom and working your way up and take the little steps try to be the scout team player of the week so the little things like that and become the player they want you to be," Brookland football coach Chuck Speer said.
Walk-ons are considered longshots, and Lane is taking the right attitude.
"Quarterback coach has talked to me and anything is up right now but I've told them I'll play anywhere they want me to play, I'm not dead set on one position. I'll play wherever they need me," Lane said.
"He's a great athlete not just a quarterback. He can play on the defensive side, he can catch the ball on the offensive side so Football becomes work at the next level and if you don't love it you can't do it and Reid loves the game, loves the work the grind of the game and I think he can be a successful player," added Speer.
At the top of the story, we mentioned five different athletes walking on to A-State but at the last minute we learned about Hardage and Crawford.
Jake Hardage is a big ole offensive lineman from Pocahontas. Listed at 6-5 325 pounds..
This summer he visited Mississippi State. For a big guy he can move. Watch him explode off the line. lifts his guy off his feet.
Jonesboro's Collin Crawford, is a talent too. He can kick and punt. Strong leg. I even watched him boot it through the uprights through driving rain.