Lee Morris has the look and production of a big-time recruit.
At 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, he is a highlight waiting to happen for Oklahoma. Eight of his 14 career receptions have gone for touchdowns. He’s not just a red zone threat — the junior has averaged 22.4 yards per catch in his career.
Turns out, the late bloomer started off as a walk-on who didn’t earn a scholarship until this season. He has emerged as a critical piece for a team in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot.
“Just because he’s a walk-on, people want to label him as probably not the best receiver out there,” Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray said. “I think he’s one of the best athletes on the team regardless of him being a walk-on. When he touches the ball, obviously, you all see what happens. He makes plays.”
Just a short drive up the road, Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius is having a breakthrough season. The former walk-on waited his turn for years behind Mason Rudolph, and he has taken advantage of the spotlight this season. Last Saturday, in his biggest game yet, the redshirt senior passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two scores to help the Cowboys knock off then-No. 6 Texas 38-35 . For the season, he has passed for 2,335 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Of course, Oklahoma has perhaps the best walk-on story of all time. Baker Mayfield walked on at Oklahoma after transferring from Texas Tech in 2014. He won the Heisman Trophy last season and was the No 1 overall draft pick. He twice won the Burlsworth Award for the nation’s top player who began his career as a walk-on.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are among the many top-tier programs in the Big 12 and beyond that are benefiting from players who started their careers as walk-ons.
SHEA CAMPBELL, OLB, WEST VIRGINIA
Campbell walked on at West Virginia out of Morgantown High in 2015 and didn’t play in his first three years at safety. By this fall, he had bulked up to 240 pounds and was called upon to play at linebacker due to a rash of injuries.
“Guys going down, I think it’s my opportunity to step up and do the best that I can in the middle,” he said.
Last Saturday, in his second start, Campbell collected his first career interception in a 58-14 win over Baylor, prompting the coaching staff to name him the team’s defensive player of the week. Two weeks ago at Iowa State, he had a career-high 12 tackles.
Campbell earned a scholarship this season.
MIKE BERNIER, PUNTER, ALABAMA
Bernier started as a freshman at Eastern Illinois but returned home to Madison, Alabama, after his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2015, and he walked on at Alabama and was a backup. Bernier’s mother passed away at the start of this season. He earned the start against Tennessee last week and averaged 41 yards on two punts.
JAMEY MOSLEY, LB, ALABAMA
The backup linebacker has three tackles for loss this season. He started three games last year and had 13 tackles. His brother, former Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, plays for the Baltimore Ravens.
HUNTER RENFROW, WR, CLEMSON
Ranks third on the Tigers with 26 receptions and fourth with 290 yards this season. The senior has 163 career catches for 1,879 yards and 15 touchdowns.
CHRIS FINKE, WR, NOTRE DAME
Ranks second on the Fighting Irish with 338 yards receiving and is tied for third on the squad with 27 receptions.
GREG McCRAE, RB, CENTRAL FLORIDA
Entering Thursday’s game, Has had rushed for 384 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 8.9 yards per carry as the No. 2 rusher for the Knights.
EVAN STALEY, KICKER, WEST VIRGINIA
The sophomore has made all 52 of his extra points and 13 of 18 field goals in his career.
KENNY WILLEKES, DE, MICHIGAN STATE
The junior leads the team with 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and six quarterback hurries.
JAN JOHNSON, LB, PENN STATE
Has 41 tackles, two off the team lead.
Source: The Associated Press