As he ran onto the field, Henry Scott did not care that Maryland had a 52-point lead. Nor did it matter that every available Terrapins player on the sideline was getting in the game or that the stands in North Carolina's Kenan Stadium were nearly empty because of the game's one-sided nature. When you have spent nearly two full football seasons essentially playing the role of a living, breathing tackling dummy, taking the field in a game is a moment that will not be forgotten.
"It was a dream come true just to be out there," said Scott, a reserve sophomore defensive end who got in for a few snaps late in the Terrapins' 59-7 victory over the Tar Heels on Nov. 2. "In my mind, I was going over what gap I've got to have my face in. And I wanted to get a good takeoff and not get embarrassed."
Scott gained notice, all right -- from the referees. He jumped offsides.
It might not have been the debut Scott envisioned, but it was a debut. And that was enough to leave him smiling a few weeks afterward as he reminisced. Like a handful of other players on the team, Scott was not recruited by anyone on the coaching staff. Maryland gives out 85 scholarships each year to football players and several other players are recruited walk-ons, encouraged to pay their own tuition with the hope of earning a scholarship after a year or two.
Then there are players like Scott, who must sell themselves in hopes of getting a stall in the corner of the locker room and the opportunity to run the upcoming opponent's plays in practice and stand on the sidelines in uniform during home games. For most, it is not an enjoyable experience.
"Typically, they give up after 12 months," said Maryland strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt, who conducts open tryouts twice each school year, "especially if really there is no light at the end of the tunnel."
Indeed, many of the walk-ons -- recruited or not -- who joined the team last season quit soon after the Orange Bowl loss to Florida. When tuition and room and board are not tied to an athletic scholarship, getting up for 5:45 a.m. offseason running sessions, study halls and restrictions placed on all team members hold little appeal.
A handful, though, persevere. Scott, who was cut the first time he tried out, played in only one game but was awarded a scholarship before the start of this season. Wide receiver Onnie Onwuemene, who stood out in last spring's intrasquad game, plays on the punt return and kickoff coverage units. Linebacker Andrew Henley, now in his third season on the team and on scholarship, has started two games and is a key reserve.
"You know you have to show extra, work harder and give it more than maybe the average person to get a chance to play," Henley said.
In general, walk-ons spend their practices on "scout teams," offensive and defensive units that simulate the team's upcoming opponent to the point that scout team players usually wear the jersey number of the player they are emulating. And unlike the first- and second-stringers, players on the scout teams rarely get a play off -- they have no backups.
"Those are the guys who get us prepared week in and week out," said starting guard Lamar Bryant, a scholarship player who spent his freshman season on the scout team. "It's about knowing your role. Everybody has a role on the team, whether you're a starting defensive lineman or a scout team wide receiver."
Said Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen: "I think they're very valuable. I was disappointed some kids left after they got a ring and all the bowl gear, but there are still a lot of them around. And we've still got more kids coming out. I welcome that. I really like for kids in our school to think they have a chance to play."
The only privilege walk-ons, whether recruited or not, do not receive is the right to eat at the team's training table. Instead of going to a special part of the dining hall or one that stays open late for athletes, walk-ons must fend for themselves. Before he was given a scholarship two seasons ago, punter Brooks Barnard often talked about dropping by McDonald's in the student union.
"That's the only thing that separates them," Friedgen said. "That, and a bill."