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.

Ben Wallace

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Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace, a dominant defender in his day, never played Division I basketball. 

Wallace was actually heavily recruited as a football player out of high school, as he was an all-state selection at linebacker. The Auburn Tigers even extended Wallace a full-ride offer to play football, envisioning him as a potential two-way player.

While such an opportunity is what most boys from Alabama dream of, Wallace simply loved basketball too much to abandon the sport. He decided to ditch football and chase his hoop dreams, yet he didn't quite have the same caliber of suitors in that sport.

Wallace started his collegiate basketball career by walking on at tiny Cuyahoga Community College near Cleveland, Ohio. His sophomore season, Big Ben averaged 24 points a game to go along with 17 rebounds and seven blocks. 

He later transferred to Virginia Union University, a Division II school, at the encouragement of his mentor, NBA legend Charles Oakley. There, he led the Panthers to the Division II Final Four and was named a first-team All-American as a senior. 

Wallace went undrafted out of college, but eventually signed with the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) as a free agent. For the first couple seasons of his career, he was little more than a benchwarmer.

When he was traded to the Detroit Pistons in 2000, Wallace really began to flourish. He went on to win four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and an NBA Championship, along with a slew of other impressive accomplishments.

"As long as you go out there and grind and go hard, good things will continue to happen for you," Wallace, who was know for his blue-collar mentality, once told the Mercury News.

To this day, Wallace remains the only player in NBA history to record 1,000 rebounds, 100 blocks and 100 steals in four consecutive seasons. While Wallace's days in the NBA may be over, his legacy lives on. Draymond Green grew up idolizing Wallace's game, and he now considers him a "big brother". 

For all his success in the NBA, it's hard not to wonder how Ben Wallace would've turned out as a football player. He was listed at 6-foot-9, 240 pounds during his playing days, and was once rumored to be capable of bench pressing nearly 500 pounds.