15 Star Athletes Who Had to Walk On to Their College Teams

These pro athletes are stars now, but they had to work their way to the top.

Ryan Howard

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Ryan Howard

The home run-hitting Ryan Howard had a great high school baseball career, but received almost no interest from major college programs. 

Keith Guttin, head baseball coach at Missouri State since 1983, had followed Howard since his sophomore year of high school."He was a bit of a late bloomer in high school," Guttin told STACK. "I think coaches knew about him, [but] they were just kind of waiting for him to make the next step in terms of his development as a player."

While Guttin liked what he saw, he didn't pull the trigger to offer Howard a scholarship. 

Howard decided to walk on at Missouri State anyways and went on to earn MVC Freshman of the Year honors. That helped him finally land that elusive scholarship, and Howard finished his collegiate career with 50 home runs, 183 RBIs and a .335 career batting average.

Howard credits his time at Missouri State with developing him into a complete player. "It helped me mature baseball-wise. That's actually where I learned to hit to the opposite field, from my coach in college," Howard told STACK.

Howard was drafted in 2001 by the Philadelphia Phillies. His first pro hit was, fittingly enough, a home run.

In 2005, Howard was the NL Rookie of the Year. He went on to be a three-time All Star and the 2006 NL MVP. In 2008, he led the Phillies to a World Series championship. 

Howard, one of the premier power hitters of his era, smashed 382 career home runs.  He also totaled estimated career earnings of $190,255,000. Not bad for a walk-on. 

"Baseball is a game of perseverance," Guttin says in reference to Howard's meteoric rise from walk-on to MVP. "Those who are overlooked, start off slow or don't get all the opportunities have to keep plugging away to achieve success."

Had Howard gave up on baseball simply because he didn't have any offers coming out of high school, we would've been robbed of a spectacular career.


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