Football: Journey from walking to soaring

Hayden Boudreaux

Twice a year, the Georgia Southern University football team offers tryouts for students who aspire to wear blue and white on Saturdays, not everyone makes it but there are some that go from walk-on to starter.

Senior fullback William Banks came to Georgia Southern University after only receiving academic scholarships offers in high school despite lettering in basketball, football, baseball and track.

His brother, who played on the football team, greatly impacted his decision to walk on to the Eagle practice squad. After a summer of conditioning with his brother, Banks went through tryouts and made the team under former head coach Chris Hatcher.

“Coach Hatcher’s staff tried to run us all off,” Banks said. “They wanted to see who the toughest of us were. We started with about 40 walk-ons, but they conditioned us until there were only ten or fifteen of us left.”

Banks began a long process of ups and downs with the Eagles. After being redshirted his freshman year, he did not see any action in his first three years as a walk on. His junior year, he finally pushed his way into the offensive lineup, playing in all 14 games and compiling 442 rushing yards and finally earning a scholarship for his senior year.

This season, Banks has been a staple in the GSU offense. He has rushed for 265 yards and five touchdowns. He encourages others to walk on but warns that it is not for everyone.

“You have to work as hard as you can, there will be times you don’t want to do it anymore but you have to dig deep and remember why you are out here in the first place,” Banks said.

Junior linebacker Edwin Jackson graduated from Westlake High School in Atlanta after not starting in a single varsity football game.  Because of his inexperience, he was not highly recruited and he came to GSU on a mission.

Upon his arrival in the summer of 2010, he worked out and became friends with some players who mentored him. After three months of intense training, Jackson went to tryouts to put everything on the line with the hope of securing a spot on the Eagle roster.

When the two grueling days of tryouts finally concluded, Jackson took the practice field in Eagle blue and white. Throughout his first year, some older players took him under their wings as he moved up the depth chart.

Jackson found his way onto the field through special teams.  He started on kickoff and used this to take the spotlight, making 10 tackles in his freshman season. Going into spring of his sophomore year, the determined linebacker decided to make a push for the starting position.

In the Blue-White spring game, Jackson led both squads with 10 tackles and raised eyebrows. He ended up seeing more time for the Eagles his sophomore year recording 16 tackles by the end of the season.

Last spring, Jackson separated himself as a defensive talent. He started in the Blue-White game and left no doubt about who the best man for the job was. Jackson was offered a full scholarship before the season began and he prepared for his role in holding up the GSU defense.

As the Eagles lined up against Savannah State University, Jackson’s hard work had finally paid off. He took the field for the first time in his football career as a starter and racked up five total tackles. Jackson has started every game this season for the Eagles and currently has 43 total tackles and one sack, but he isn’t close to giving up his work ethic.

“My love for the game has grown tremendously. I love being out here working with my brothers, the best is definitely yet to come,” Jackson said.

Whether a person was a four-sport high school athlete or never started a game these players proved that with hard work and a steadfast resolve anything can be achieved.

Jackson said, “Have faith in yourself, have faith in your teammates, and have faith in your coaches. Believe in yourself, and whatever you want to do is possible.”