Walk-ons start their careers a step below their scholarship teammates in almost every aspect. Players who walk-on to their collegiate teams and find success on the field are diamonds in the rough for these college teams– when they get drafted into the NFL, it’s even more impressive. Below are three current 2022 NFL draft prospects who started their careers as walk-ons at their respective schools. Below them you will find 10 of the best collegiate walk-ons in NFL history.
Top 10 Former Walk-Ons in the NFL
JJ Watt, Wisconsin, EDGE
Watt earned a scholarship from Central Michigan University as a TE but left after a season to walk-on at Wisconsin. The decision worked out for Watt as he blossomed as an edge rusher at Wisconsin. He was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Since then, he’s been a 5x pro bowler, 5x all pro, and 3x defensive player of the year, and was selected to the HOF All-2010s team. He was one of, if not the most dominant defensive edge in the NFL during the 2010s. He’s currently playing for the Cardinals.
Antonio Brown, Central Michigan, WR
Brown started his collegiate career at a prep school before he walked on at Central Michigan. He played three seasons there, where he won Mid-American Conference Freshman of the year. He was selected in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft. He’s a 7x pro bowler, 4x all pro, 1x super bowl champion, and was selected to the HOF All-2010s team. He’s currently a free agent.
Jack Conklin, Michigan State, OT
Conklin was a walk-on for Michigan State in 2012 and redshirted the 2012 season. He was a 2x all-American, first team in 2015 and started 38 of 39 games in college. He was drafted 8th overall in the 2015 NFL draft. He’s a 2x All-Pro who’s started 79 games in six seasons. Currently he plays right tackle for the Browns.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB
Mayfield is the highest drafted walk-on player of this group and of all time. He walked on at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma where he won the Heisman trophy in his senior season prior to being selected 1st overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Since he’s been drafted, he holds a record of 29-30 with a TD/INT ratio of 1.64. He’s currently playing for the Browns.
Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina, CB
Norman began his collegiate playing career as a walk-on for Coastal Carolina. In four years with the team he nabbed 13 interceptions and had 48 passes defended. He was a 3rd team All-American his sophomore year. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL draft. Since being drafted he’s made one pro bowl & one all-pro team. He has a career 16 interceptions and 88 passes defended. Currently he is a free agent.
Hunter Renfrow, Clemson, WR
Renfrow walked on at Clemson after declining a scholarship from App State. He won the Burlsworth trophy his senior season which is awarded to the best walk-on player in college football. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft and has since made 1x pro bowl. He broke out in 2021– having career highs essentially across the board. He’s currently playing for the Raiders.
Matt Paradis, Boise State, C
Paradis walked on for Boise State in 2009 and was a first team All-Mountain West and second team All-Mountain West in 2012 and 2013. He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL draft. He’s since started 98 games across seven seasons in the NFL and is currently playing center for the Panthers.
Joe Schobert, Wisconsin, LB
Schobert went from walk-on at Wisconsin to first team all-American–the third linebacker to do so in Wisconsin history. He was drafted in the 4th round of the NFL draft and has since become a tackling machine. He’s eclipsed 100+ TOT in every season he’s played (5 of 6) aside from his rookie season where he played in 16 games but started just 4. He is currently a free agent.
Carl Nassib, Penn State, EDGE
Nassib walked on at Penn State in 2011and redshirted immediately. He didn’t start for the Nittany Lions until his redshirt senior season in 2015– he won the nations top linebacker award (Lombardi award), nations top defensive end award (Ted Hendricks award), and was a consensus all-American. He set the Penn State single season sack record as well with 15.5 sacks. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL draft. In six seasons he currently has 22 sacks & 39 TFLs. He is currently a free agent.
Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia, K
Blankenship walked on and redshirted in 2015 before becoming Georgia’s starting place kicker in 2016. In 2019 he was a first team all-American and won the nation’s top kicking award, the Lou Groza award, in addition to hitting 27 of 33 attempts that season. He went undrafted in the 2020 NFL draft but was signed by the Colts, which is where he currently plays, and in his rookie season of 2020 he 32 of 37 FGAs and 43 of 45 PATs. He missed the 2021 season due to injury.
Former Walk-Ons in NFL Draft
Prior to playing tight end, Dulcich was a walk-on for UCLA as a WR. After his redshirt 2018 season, Dulcich played in 30 games over three seasons where he earned All-Pac-12 first team in 2021 & 2021 Mackey award semifinalist. He’ll be able to stretch defenses vertically down the seams in the middle of the field at the next level. He’s a versatile player who excels in a receiving role due to his athleticism and yards after the catch ability and provides a high ceiling as a prospect.
Austin began his collegiate football career as a walk-on for Memphis. He played both football & track and field where he set school records in the relay and another individual school record while being named as a 2x All-American. Despite his size, 5-7 & 170 lbs, He eclipsed 1000 yards in 2020 & 2021 and over that two year span he had a combined 22 touchdowns. He shined at the 2022 NFL combine, running a 4.32s forty and 39” vertical jump. He’s one of the most athletic and explosive players in the draft.
Allgeier switched to the complete opposite side of the ball once he walked on at BYU. Originally, he walked on as a linebacker and didn’t make the permanent switch to running back until the COVID season. He started two years at the position at BYU, combining for 1736 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns in 2020 & 2021. He shows patience when approaching the LOS and shows impressive toughness and contact balance to sift through defenders at the second level of defense.