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.

T.J. Ward

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T.J. Ward

T.J. Ward played at the legendary De La Salle High School but did not become a starter until his senior year. 

In the third game of his senior season, he broke his leg.

"No colleges were calling…I was kind of forgotten," Ward once told the Denver Post. "I was a late bloomer."

Ward eventually decided to walk on at Oregon. Ward worked hard on the scout team and eventually earned a scholarship. 

He continued to battle injuries throughout his career at Oregon but was eventually named All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention. That led the Cleveland Browns to draft Ward in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

He quickly developed a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the NFL.

In 2013, Ward was a second-team All-Pro as well as a Pro Bowler. He signed with the Denver Broncos in 2014, making the Pro Bowl once again that season.

He helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 with a dominating performance that included seven tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. 

Ward, who is currently a free agent, was rated number 68 in the NFL Top 100 in 2016. He currently boasts 607 career tackles, 44 passes defended, 8 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles.

Not bad for a dude who only started two high school games and had zero offers.


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