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|Welcome to TSLMail #183 - Friday, July 8, 2005||
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The Virginia Tech walk-on program is well-known throughout the country for developing unheralded players and turning them into college stars. While the vast majority of walk-ons enter and leave the program without the casual fan ever knowing, there are some that go on to distinguish themselves for the Hokies, and even some that go on to the NFL.
In this edition of TSLMail, weíll talk about some of the top walk-ons in the Beamer Bowl Era. Some youíll definitely remember, but some you have probably forgotten.
Letís start with the current team, where left guard Will Montgomery and fullback Jesse Allen will find themselves starting for the second year in a row in 2005. Montgomery, who almost played as a true freshman back in 2001 despite his walk-on status, has established himself as Techís best lineman. He can play either center or guard, and may have a chance to play at the next level. Allen is a weight room warrior who continues the tradition of walk-on fullbacks at Virginia Tech.
Speaking of walk-on fullbacks, itís time to mention Brian Edmonds, Jarrett Ferguson and Doug Easlick. Edmonds played at Tech from 1993-1996, and is perhaps the best fullback the Hokies have ever had. Edmonds could do everything. He could block, run and catch, and I remember being very surprised when he didnít stick with an NFL team.
Ferguson, who broke into the starting lineup as a sub-200 pounder in 1998 when Cullen Hawkins went down with an injury, was one of the most lethal lead blockers Tech has ever had a fullback. He was also a good receiver out of the backfield, as he showed in 2001 when Tech was breaking in a new quarterback (Grant Noel) and had but one quality wideout to throw to (Andre Davis).
Doug Easlick was very good, yet doesnít get the notoriety of Ferguson, whom he replaced in 2002. Unlike Edmonds and Ferguson, Easlick made an NFL roster, and even started a couple of games for the Dolphins in 2004. He was later released, but has since been picked up by the Bengals.
In 1996 and 1997, the Hokies were pretty fortunate that their walk-on defensive linemen panned out, otherwise there could have been some serious issues. In both of those years, the Hokies featured three walk-ons along the defensive frontÖJohn Engelberger, Kerwin Hairston and Danny Wheel.
Everybody remembers John Engelberger. Engelberger entered Tech as a walk-on tight end, but ended up starting as a r-freshman at defensive end. He never let up and developed into an All-American by his senior year. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and still plays there.
Kerwin Hairston was a walk-on from Martinsville, VA. He saw his first extensive action in 1996, and he responded well by making 52 tackles and adding 6 sacks. He and John Engelberger started against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, meaning 50% of Techís starting defensive line in that game were walk-ons.
Another walk-on that was a part of the 1996 and 1997 defensive lines was Danny Wheel. Wheel didnít start as much as Engelberger and Hairston, but he did play quite a bit and saw some starting time, especially in 1997.
When talking about walk-ons on the 1996 and 1997 teams, there is no reason to stop at the defensive line. Another walk-on was linebacker Steve Tate, who started six games in 1996 and every game in 1997. With Tate added to the trio of Engelberger, Hairston and Wheel, the Hokies had a very large number of walk-ons in their front seven for a couple of seasons.
Another good walk-on story was that of Steve DeMasi, which occurred right in the middle of the Hokiesí run to the National Championship game in 1999. Tech was facing its biggest game of the season up to that point against 15th-ranked Syracuse. College Gameday was coming to Blacksburg for the first time, and the game was looked upon as one of the most important in the history of the program. However, senior centers Keith Short and Tim Schnecker were injured, and DeMasi, who was 3rd string, had to fill in. He did an admirable job, and the Hokies went on to squeeze the Orange 62-0. DeMasi spent the rest of the season as a backup, and then went on to start in 2000 and 2001.
Michael Stuewe is a name that some people might not remember. Stuewe played for the Hokies from 1995-97, and was a pretty solid and reliable receiver with 53 career receptions. He was hurt for part of the 1997 season, and his injury, along with Shawn Scalesí injury, seriously hurt the offense.
Perhaps the best walk-on that Virginia Tech has ever produced was tight end John Burke. Burke only played one season during the Beamer Bowl Era (1993), but he still has to be included. Burke was a pretty good weapon for the Hokies, but unfortunately they didnít use him very much, as he only caught 10 passes in 1993. However, that didnít stop the New England Patriots from drafting him in the 4th round of the 1994 NFL Draft.
Browning Wynn was another good walk-on tight end for Tech. Wynn played for the Hokies from 1998-2001, and signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts following his senior year. Wynn was never able to put up big numbers at Tech, but that was because he was sharing time with Derek Carter and Bob Slowikowski, plus he was playing in an offense that virtually ignored the tight end.
So who will become the next great Tech walk-on? Hereís a name to rememberÖOrion Martin. Martin, a r-freshman defensive end, is the older brother of Tech free safety recruit Cameron Martin. He flashed tremendous potential during spring scrimmages, as well as the spring game, when he sacked Marcus Vick twice, and Martin has proved to be an outstanding player in space. He still needs to improve his strength at the point of attack, but Martin has good down-the-road potential and is currently in the two-deep for the Hokies.
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|TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week|
The Price of Compassion
Report; D.J. Walton Arrested, Dismissed
Breaking Down VT's 2005 Recruiting Class: Offensive Line
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