The Sporting Life: Former Foothills star starts over at UA - The Explorer: Import

The Sporting Life: Former Foothills star starts over at UA

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Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:00 am | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

November 15, 2006 - It was early in the week and the University of Arizona football team was preparing for its upcoming road game against Louisiana State University.

As a running back went in motion, Wildcat linebacker Chris Elkins failed to shift - an innocent mistake made by a player adjusting to a foreign defensive scheme. UA head coach Mike Stoops didn't see it as innocent, though, and verbally berated the walk-on freshman.

Welcome to the big leagues.

"I kind of laughed about it because I finally got yelled at," said Elkins. "I see everyone getting yelled at and I hadn't yet."

The 2006 Catalina Foothills High School grad is in his first year as a walk-on freshman with UA football. For the former big fish in a small pond, the water is now deeper and the fish are much bigger and faster.

But that doesn't stop the freshman from dreaming. For Elkins, the goal is simple: Get on the plane.

The life of a walk-on rarely comes with the same glory bestowed on scholarship players. Most walk-ons don't travel with the team when it goes on the road due to the large amount of players NCAA Division I squads carry. Basically, get on the plane and a player gets a chance to get on the field. Most teams have 85 scholarship players and 15 to 20 walk-ons but only about 60 travel to away games.

As a senior defensive end at Foothills, Elkins led the Falcons in tackles with 101, averaging 10.1 a game. A year later at the UA, Elkins plays linebacker on the Wildcats' scout team.

"In high school, if you're a third stringer you have to carry the water, be the towel boy, so I almost expected that here," said Elkins.

"I didn't come in thinking I was bad ass in my high school. You can't come in here with a big head like that. All of a sudden you're back at square one when you come here as a walk-on. Basically I need to prove myself some how, some way because they don't know anything that I can do."

Elkins chose to walk-on at the UA after getting limited offers to play at other schools.

"It doesn't feel like anything is happening," he said. "The first day, I didn't even know if my name was going to be on the list. I came up to the equipment room and was like 'God, I hope they have my name.' That would have been embarrassing."

Elkins was on the list, joining the likes of fellow former high school standouts dotting the Wildcat roster - names that include Ironwood Ridge High School's Daniel Borg, Sunnyside High School's Xavier Smith and Sabino High School's Brooks Reed and Glyndon Bolasky.

The walk-on was a junior the year Foothills upended a heavily favored Sabino in 2004. It's a game he still doesn't dare bring up to his new teammates out of risk of "causing any tension," laughs Elkins.

There is hope that Elkins may get a chance to run down the tunnel and onto the field for a game at Arizona Stadium. Traditionally, walk-ons don't get to run out on the field to the chorus of cheers and fireworks. He certainly won't give up without a fight.

Each year, hundreds of high school linebackers are scouted for scholarship offers but only a select few earn the free ride. It is possible for a walk-on to get a scholarship if they can prove he can play better (or as well) as the recruits they're scouting.

But football isn't the sole reason why Elkins is at the UA. Elkins is currently looking for honors courses in his major, engineering. Problem is, most honors-classes conflict with football practice.

"I'll come back next year," said Elkins. "I'm not a guy to just leave."

Next year, there's talk that he may join the Wildcats' special teams squads under special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach Joe Robinson.

If that's the case, Elkins just may get on the plane.

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