UK Football

A walk-on gets a scholarship. You’ve seen it; these guys lived it.

It’s one thing to watch a viral video of a walk-on being awarded a full scholarship. As fun as those videos are to watch, it’s even more fun to be the star.

“It’s crazy. It’s a dream come true. It really is,” said Kentucky running back Zach Johnson on Tuesday, the day after he, Miles Butler and David Bouvier were awarded full scholarships announced in a viral video on Coach Mark Stoops’ Twitter account. “I’ve seen the videos all over ESPN and all over TV, but to actually have it happen to you is just an incredible experience.”

The Tweet had more than 1,300 likes and nearly 300 retweets by Tuesday afternoon.

“We trust all these guys, right. They do a hell of a job for us,” Stoops said as he addressed the team in their meeting room. “Now, help me welcome them because they’ve got one thing in common: all former walk-ons.”

butler.jpg
Miles Butler (95) watched his field goal go through the uprights as Kentucky beat Charlotte in 2015 in Lexington. Butler, a senior, has filled in as both punter and place-kicker during his time at UK. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

Players leaped over seats and rushed their three assembled teammates in a mosh pit of congratulations.

Tuesday, Butler remained a bit giddy, especially after being called up to the podium in front of a slew of media. He’d never been to the podium before.

“Hi, I’m Miles Butler. Nice to meet you all,” Butler said, grinning. “Do you want me to just say something or do you want to do questions?”

Johnson, a 5-foot-10 junior running back out of Cincinnati, saw action on the special teams unit in eight games last year.

Butler, a senior kicker out of Paducah, subbed in for an injured Austin MacGinnis at place-kicker as a freshman and assumed emergency punting duties last year during the Vanderbilt game even though he hadn’t punted in a game since high school. He’s competing to be the starting place-kicker this season.

Bouvier, the other walk-on to get a scholarship, has made an even bigger impression this summer and was hailed Tuesday by assistant head coach Eddie Gran as the MVP of camp. He will likely be UK’s punt returner this season.

A 5-9 senior wide receiver out of Lexington Catholic, Bouvier’s first thoughts at the press conference were of his newly honored teammates.

zach.jpg
Running back Zach Johnson, a junior from Cincinnati, saw action in eight games on special teams last season. Ken Weaver

“It feels weird being on a full scholarship now. It’s such a blessing,” Bouvier said. “I was so happy for Miles and Zach, especially. They’ve earned it. They’ve worked so hard. They’re the definition of what a true SEC football player should be.”

Each player had an emotional call with his parents after the news broke.

“My mom was crying. She was about to make me cry,” Bouvier said. “It was hard talking to her. My parents have done so much for me. Being able to get a scholarship for them. That meant a lot.”

And each said the opportunity to play at UK, even as a walk-on, was a childhood dream.

“I had some opportunities to kick at some smaller schools,” Butler said. “I actually was going to go to Alabama — not to kick, just to go to school, do academics down there — then (former UK offensive) coach Neal Brown came a week before I graduated” with a walk-on opportunity.

bouvier.jpg
David Bouvier is a senior from Lexington Catholic High School who has been one of the most impressive players in fall camp, according to UK’s coaches. Matt Goins

His mother wanted him to sit down and think about it for a while before answering.

“I said, no. We’re going,” Butler replied. “That’s a done deal. I’m there.”

Now, a scholarship is here, too.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments