No scholarship offer doesn’t have to mean the end

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Compared to National Signing Day 2008, when nine local football players made official their decisions to play collegiately, Wednesday will be subdued.

Only one player, Jemison’s Christian Briscoe, is expected to sign. But even if they are spending today behind a desk in a classroom instead of behind a podium announcing their college destination to a gymnasium full of cheering classmates, many players haven’t given up on their dreams of continuing their football careers. They shouldn’t give up on that dream because there is too much to be gained in this case from persistence.

More and better scholarship offers will surely find their way into the hands of county players as more prominent programs fill their classes with the country’s best players and less prominent programs then scramble to find the next best guy at that position when they realize their first choice is no longer available.

Some, though, will receive no offer no matter how badly they want one. But there’s still hope.

Take former Jemison player Paul Schoolar as an example. Schoolar suffered an injury his senior year and didn’t see the first scholarship offer. But Schoolar still wanted to play. So, he went to work.

Schoolar was invited to walk on by former coach Watson Brown’s staff but wasn’t just given a spot on the team. Thirty-five players tried out in spring 2006; four, including Schoolar, made it.

Then came a coaching change, which sometimes signals the end of the line for non-scholarship players. More than 90 players began Neil Calloway’s first spring as UAB’s coach; 62 players, including Schoolar, made it through the spring.

“It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through,” Schoolar said. “I lost 15 pounds in one semester. There were guys on scholarship that said, ‘I can’t do it.’”

Finally, Schoolar’s work paid off. He was called in to Calloway’s office shortly upon returning to Birmingham from the Christmas break. Calloway told Schoolar he would be awarded with a scholarship.

“I was excited,” Schoolar said. “It was very unexpected.”

The scholarship will save Schoolar about $2,600 a semester in tuition, and that doesn’t include the meal plan and the allowance for rent that are included in the scholarship.

Schoolar is proof that not every successful college football career begins with a scholarship offer from the big state university, or even a scholarship offer at all. With some hard work, Schoolar got what he always wanted.

“My biggest motivation was I just couldn’t let the game go,” he said. “I wanted to keep playing. This [scholarship] is just a bonus.”