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‘This is just a stepping stone’: Arizona’s former walk-ons react to getting put on scholarship

Jaydin Young
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Meetings are a big part of the process for college football players, and Rourke Freeburg thought the one on Thursday’s schedule was just all the ones before. Until he saw the table set up in front, with three Arizona hats placed in front and pieces of paper and pens toward the back.

Suddenly, having the overhead screen showing the ESPN graphic from 2010 when LeBron James made “The Decision” to go to Miami made total sense.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” Freeburg said Thursday night, a day after he and fellow (former) walk-ons Treydan Stukes and Jaydin Young were put on scholarship.

Freeburg, a redshirt junior who’s player the Viper position this season, is in his fifth year at Arizona and started all five games at linebacker in 2020. Stukes, a cornerback, and Young, a safety, played in three and four games, respectively as true freshmen last fall. All three are from the Phoenix area, with each choosing to pay their own way to go to the UA but now will have their school and other expenses paid for.

“It was surreal,” Stukes said. “I got on the phone with my family as soon as I could. It was just unreal. I couldn’t express how happy I was.”

A former track and football star at Goodyear Millennium High School, Stukes had 11 interceptions in his prep career and also won a state title in the triple jump. But he was also only 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds, which likely impacted his recruitment. He’s now listed at 6-1 and 184 pounds.

“Coaches, we make mistakes, too,” cornerbacks coach DeWayne Walker said. “I’m sure he was probably a little light, a little slim. So schools kinda overlooked him. I’m glad they did.”

Young, from Peoria Centennial, actually worked with Walker the summer before his freshman year at the UA, giving him an extra cheerleader in the program when he was hired in January. He already had one in Chuck Cecil, a former walk-on himself at the UA who was a defensive analyst in 2020 and coaches the safeties this year.

“He was ecstatic as always, screaming and yelling,” Young said of Cecil, who was brought to tears talking about Young during spring practice.

Freeburg, from Scottsdale, had already decided to return to the UA for the 2021 season before Jedd Fisch was hired in December.

“We had a quick conversation, I told him this is where I want to be, I’m a homegrown Arizona kid and there’s nowhere else I want to be,” Freeburg said.

Freeburg said that, other than the financial help, nothing else changes for him.

“I’ve said before I show up every day with the mindset that I’m here to compete for a starting job, regardless of who’s in front of me or behind me,” he said.

Added Young: “It means a lot, but I’m just not done working. This is just a stepping stone. I still have many more stepping stones to hit.”