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.

Brett Gardner

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Brett Gardner

Brett Gardner is a speedy outfielder who has spent his entire MLB career with the New York Yankees. 

He has led the league in steals and triples, was named an All-Star in 2015, and won a Gold Glove Award in 2016. 

Those are amazing feats for a player who was initially cut from his college team.

Gardner had no offers coming out of high school, so he tried to walk on at the College of Charleston. During tryouts, the coaches loved his wheels—but not much else. 

Gardner did not make the final roster, but showed up at the next practice in uniform after he was cut. Gardner, armed with a letter from his pro-ball playing father, begged the coach to just let him practice with the real squad. 

The coaches reluctantly agreed, and Gardner went on to become a star. He was an All-American his senior season, as his 122 hits tied for the most in college baseball. He also led the Southern Conference with 38 stolen bases.

The New York Yankees took a chance on the former walk-on in the third-round of the 2005 MLB Draft, and he's been with the Bronx Bombers ever since.

Gardner, now 34 years old, posted the highest WAR of his career last season.

While he's not quite as fleet of foot as he used to be, other aspects of his game have picked up the slack. He bashed a career-high 21 home runs last season, for example. 

Gardner credits his longevity to a clean diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and a training routine which prioritizes core strength and stability.