Sports / The Prairie Fire / October 23, 2019

The journey of collegiate walk-ons

Sophomore Derrick Jackson does not really consider himself a walk on since Division III schools do not have scholarships for student athletes. He had 28 offers to play football for Division I schools.

“The coach that recruited me, Coach Overby, he made me feel at home, feel comfortable,” Jackson said. “And once I came here, I never took a visit here, I felt at home, this family opened up its arms.”

Jackson had started at the University of Miami before he met former Coach Randy Overby. He was convinced to come to Knox for track but wound up joining the football team as well. The teams have been a big part of why he has enjoyed being a Knox so much.

“Especially the (football) team, that’s the major impact they had on me, just hyping me up, telling me I can do it,” he said.

Jackson is not the only student athlete who did not expect to end up playing the sports he plays at Knox. Junior Davin Conway was recruited for baseball, played his freshman and sophomore years and plans to play again this year.

He also joined, and was welcomed by, the football team this season. Conway ran the scoreboard during his sophomore year and saw the passion the team had. He talked to his baseball coach and head football coach Damon Tomeo before making a commitment. Tomeo wanted him to be certain he would play out the season, Conway said.

“I felt like myself that I had to prove I had to play a little bit, but it’s not like anyone was telling me, no one was going after me or anything like that,” he said. “It was more a thing I felt myself, that I had to prove that I could play.”

Conway’s transition was helped by knowing some of the football team already, including those who play both football and baseball. Freshman Kyle Schipper knew some of the basketball team through pick up games and living in Seymour.

He knew the entire team would be having a transition with incoming new head coach Ben Davis. Schipper had talked to former coach Kevin Walden but started the recruiting process late. When Walden resigned, Schipper sent his tapes to Davis, who asked him to use the first two days of practice Ñ Tuesday and Wednesday Ñ as tryouts.

Schipper knows he may not make the varsity team this year but hopes he can play JV and make the varsity roster by the end of the year. He thinks Davis will be a good coach for the team and thinks they will have a better record this year.

Conway and Jackson have also been proud to be a part of the football team this year as they seem posed to improve their record.

“We definitely improved upon last year,” Conway said. “We played some really difficult opponents the past two weeks but I think we’re showing out against the opponents that we believe we should beat.”

All three had some adjustment to playing in college. Conway had spent two years off the football field and said he was still trying to re-pick up some of the footwork and mental skills of the game. It takes a different mentality than baseball, he said.

For Jackson, the change has been the balance of academics and athletics. At a Division I school like the University of Miami it would have been all about football, he said.

Lexie and Daniella Irle, they were like, ‘Yes, you have the talent potential, but academics comes first,’ and this school builds a lot of character as well,” Jackson

Connor Wood, Editor-in-Chief
Connor Wood is a senior with a double major in English Literature and Environmental Studies. He started as a volunteer writer and then staff writer his freshman year and was a news editor his sophomore and junior years. He has also worked as a communications intern for the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and as an intern with Unified News Group, both in the Madison, WI, suburbs.

Tags:  Knox College prairie fire athletics prairie fire baseball Prairie Fire Basketball Prairie Fire Football

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