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‘Just keep believing in yourself’: A walk-on’s journey to seven years of Miami University football

Student Profile

Ryan McWood’s mentality as a football player at Miami was shaped by being a walk-on player.
Ryan McWood’s mentality as a football player at Miami was shaped by being a walk-on player.

As Ryan McWood’s time at Miami University nears an end, the seventh-year linebacker from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, looks fondly upon his academic tenure. His seven years of playing football for Miami have been riddled with challenges from the beginning.

McWood joined Miami’s football team as a preferred walk-on, meaning he didn’t receive an athletic scholarship to join the team. He earned one Division II football scholarship but opted to try his chances playing Division I football at Miami instead.

Since no Division I schools offered him an athletic scholarship, McWood felt he had a chip on his shoulder and something to prove as a walk-on. He cited that desire to prove himself as fuel for the fire that developed in his and his fellow walk-on teammates' hearts. 

“The walk-on mentality is really a powerful thing,” he said. “A lot of guys on the team who have been walk-ons and got put on scholarship have a little something different in their mindset.”

Despite being a walk-on, McWood stayed committed to his practice and seized any opportunity presented to him.

“It’s a long journey, especially as a walk-on,” the linebacker said. “You’re never gonna get the first [team] reps. You’re never gonna get even the second or the third reps. It might be the eighth rep you might get, and you have to take advantage when you get that opportunity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic spoiled McWood’s fifth season, and an injury prevented him from playing in his sixth year, but he did not let these challenges faze him.

“Staying positive through all that and learning to just kind of take it day-by-day and not try to go from A-to-Z but try to go from A-to-B — that 1% better every day kind of mindset,” McWood said.

While many would quit in the face of all these setbacks, McWood's love for football and his desire to play at the next level kept him coming back. He encourages anyone facing setbacks to not give up.

“Just keep believing in yourself,” he said. “Know who you are as a person and what you can bring to the table.”

Fellow linebacker on the Miami football team, Matt Salopek, sees McWood as a big brother and someone with a great football IQ who he loved playing with on the field.

“He was always there for you on and off the field, ” Salopek said. “I hope he does great things in the future.”

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