It hasn't been an easy road for Michael Marr, Jacob Schum, John Sanders and the three other walk-ons at the University at Buffalo, but through hard work and perseverance, they earned scholarships.
Marr, a senior tight end from Moravia, and sophomore punter Jacob Schum from Frontier High, sit atop the Bulls depth chart at their positions for Thursday's 7 p.m. game against Rhode Island, a Football Championship Subdivision team, at UB Stadium.
"They've earned it and they've done all the things I've asked them to do," UB coach Jeff Quinn said. "It's a great day for a head football coach to be able to reward these young men for their efforts."
The other former walk-ons who earned scholarships are senior punter John Rachuna (Jamestown), junior quarterback Cory Jorgensen and sophomore cornerback Joe Petit.
"When a new staff takes over, they don't know who you are or what you can do," said Sanders, a senior free safety and the brother of former UB linebacker Richard Sanders (2002-05). "When that happens, it gives people a lot of opportunity to stand out in certain areas. When you think about it, it's a blessing."
Marr played two seasons at Erie Community College before former offensive line coach Allen Modridge asked him to come to UB as a preferred walk-on. Marr redshirted in 2008 but earned some playing time last season behind Jesse Rack at tight end. In 10 games including two starts, Marr finished with three catches for 31 yards.
But when Turner Gill left for Kansas, Marr had doubts about earning a scholarship.
"It was my last year and I was hoping that if I played well in the '09 season I was hoping to be rewarded with a scholarship after the season," he said. "Coach Gill took off and coach Quinn came in and I didn't know if I was going to be able to earn one so I was kind of nervous. But I stuck with it and worked my butt off and it worked out for me."
Marr starts the third game of his career on Thursday.
"When I first came in I was at the bottom and worked my way up," Marr said. "Last year, Jesse was the starting tight end then it was Kyle [Brey] and then it was me. Then Kyle got hurt and I moved right in and played a lot last year behind Jesse. I've worked my butt off."
UB will rotate captains this season on a game-to-game basis with Quinn naming an offensive, defensive and special teams captain. This is a departure from previous seasons where the team voted on captains prior to the opener.
Senior defensive end Jerry Housey sat out Monday's practice with a sore knee and is questionable for Thursday's game. Housey injured the knee during practice on Sunday. Sophomore Terry Peden is listed behind Housey on the depth chart, but junior Gordon DuBois, the backup to sophomore defensive end Steven Means, also could start in place of Housey. Another option is junior Derrick Brown.