What’s in a scholarship? It’s more than just tuition, which can cost up to $8,780 a year if you attend summer courses. You also have to add in room and board (up to $6,800), books and supplies (up to $1,510) not to mention clothes, personal expenses, food and any number of things that come up in a college athlete’s life.
Not every player on a college football team is on scholarship. There are players every year that walk-on to the team knowing that they will likely never be a superstar or score a touchdown in The Swamp but they wake up early, sweat and bleed right next to the scholarship players every day.
Tuesday, Will Muschamp took the time out at the end of practice to announce that the coaching staff had decided to award two walk-on players a scholarship to the University of Florida. Mark Herndon and Tim Clark will be on scholarship for Florida this season. Muschamp’s announcement caught both of players by surprise Tuesday afternoon.
“Right when he (Muschamp) was telling me, he was saying ‘I was a walk-on, so this is my favorite day.’ When he was saying that, I was like, what’s he fixing to say?” Herndon said. “He was like ‘This is my favorite day,’ and he announced that he was putting Timothy Clark on another full scholarship. He’s also in graduate school right now, so like that was a big thing. And then he was like I have another one. When he said that, I was thinking Mike McNeely or somebody like that, somebody that’s been here for two years. Then he said Mark Herndon and I was just like whoa.”
“It was a surprise and it’s just a blessing,” Clark said. “I’m really excited about it. It’s a big thing for my family and for me, so good news.”
This is not the first time Clark has been on scholarship. He was awarded one-year scholarships in each of the past two seasons as well. Clark graduated last year and decided to attend graduate school at Florida. Undergraduate bills pale in comparison to the expense of earing a graduate degree, so the news came as a big relief to Clark and his family.
“I finished up my four and when I decided to come back for my fifth year, I was hoping that they would renew it but I wasn’t expecting it,” Clark said of his scholarship. “I thought that said a lot about our coaches for honoring that commitment to me. So like I said, it’s really been a blessing.”
For Herndon, this is the first time he has ever been on scholarship at the university and the moment he found out that his hard work was being rewarded, he broke down and could only think to call one person.
“I’m really excited. I just earned my scholarship today and it brought tears to my eyes. The first thing I did was call my mom and tell her. She was ecstatic about it,” Herndon said. “It brought tears to my eyes. Coach White cried with me. That was a big thing. It makes me feel like he really cares about us. I can feel that. It was just a real emotional thing for me. I usually don’t cry, but that was enough to do it.”
Clark said that the team was very excited for Mark Herndon and himself. Being a walk-on himself, Muschamp knows what it is like for the kids who are not on scholarship and he takes great pleasure in being able to announce that new scholarships are being awarded in front of the team. Clark expressed how happy he was for Herndon on Tuesday afternoon and said the entire team was excited for the sophomore running back.
“There’s no one more deserving than Mark,” Clark said. “He’s a humble kid, he’s a God-honoring kid. Just like I said, I was really pumped for him. No one deserves it more than him.”
Herndon grew up a Gator fan and it was always his dream to play at the University of Florida. He had scholarship offers to smaller schools farther away from home but decided to walk-on at Florida and follow his dream.
“My biggest reason why I came here was that back home, I always preached to younger kids to follow your dreams. This was a big dream for me,” Herndon said. “I feel like if I took a scholarship and went to a smaller school or something, I would be giving up on what I really wanted to do. Before I came, I prayed about where I was supposed to be and God told me here. Now I see why. This is my reason to be here. I’m just excited.”
As we said before, the scholarship will help with things like housing, books and tuition but for Herndon, getting on a meal plan and being able to go to the weekly training table dinner might be the best perk in his mind.
“Well, I know this is going to sound funny, but I’d say food. I’ll be honest; there were some nights I didn’t eat because of what goes on with the financial (situation),” Herndon said. “So I didn’t eat like a full-course meal every night. But now training table and all kinds of stuff. I might gain a few more pounds. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
What did a normal dinner consist of when Herndon wasn’t on scholarship?
“Before I was on scholarship? I would say like Ramen Noodles and, sad to say, but like Pop Tarts, stuff like that.”
Life will be a lot different off of the field for Clark and Herndon, as their families won’t feel the burden of bills pilling up but on the field, nothing changes. Clark will still work as hard, if not harder, than any player on the team to try and earn playing time as a special teams player this season. Herndon will need to continue grinding in practice in order to catch Mack Brown on the depth chart and should also be an impact player on special teams this season.
Herndon wouldn’t say that he feels that the scholarship validates him as a football player, more that he feels rewarded for staying humble and continuing to work hard.
“I wouldn’t say I felt like I was the best running back coming out of high school because I obviously wasn’t. But I felt like I should have gotten a little bit more attention,” Herndon said. “But I stayed humble and I feel like God is rewarding me for staying humble and not being angry at the world for not getting a full ride at another big school. But this is where I wanted to be, so I’m just happy that I’m in the spot I want to be in.”