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BYU football: Why walk-ons getting drafted is big deal for BYU | Opinion

Two BYU players who started as walk-ons drafted in back-to-back years by NFL teams?

Perhaps BYU football coach Kalani Sitake and assistant head coach Ed Lamb are onto something with their preferred walk-on program.

They’ve been tinkering with it for half a decade.

Last weekend the Atlanta Falcons drafted Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round. Allgeier came to BYU in 2018 without a scholarship and redshirted. He received a scholarship the next year and before he set a school record of 1,601 rushing yards last season, he played linebacker.

The year before, Washington’s NFL team drafted former walk-on receiver Dax Milne, a favorite target of then No. 2 draft pick Zach Wilson. Milne came to BYU out of Bingham High in 2018 without a scholarship. In time, he became a remarkable route runner and a favorite target of lifelong friend Wilson. His receiving skills from him reminded many of former Cougar and Indianapolis Colts wideout austin collie.

Walk-ons.

That’s pretty amazing. And it is a credit to Allgeier and Milne.

Might as well toss an assist to Sitake and his staff for recognizing their abilities, getting them into the fold, and then helping develop them.

In 2015, when Sitake and Lamb first took the reins of BYU’s program, they decided they needed a developmental program — to find diamonds in the rough and help them make progress with their skills — and part of that was an aggressive preferred walk-on program .

Getting drafted in the NFL isn’t easy. It takes all the measurables, game video, bloodlines, proof of worth and a lot of endorsements by scouts and player personnel folks.

An NCAA study notes that of 73,712 college football participants, 16,380 are eligible to be drafted. Of those, only 262 were drafted this year. That turns out to be just 1.6% of college football participants are drafted each year.

Imagine if that figure was whittled down to walk-on players. The chances would be miniscule.

The chances are against this trend continuing a third straight year for BYU.

But if it did, what other former walk-ons currently on the Cougars’ roster might follow in the footsteps of Milne and Allgeier? After all, two-for-two could be considered a trend.

Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs in the open field as Idaho State Bengals linebacker Oshea Trujillo (11) runs up from behind to make the touchdown-saving tackle.

BYU running back Tyler Allgeier runs in the open field against Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Looking at the BYU roster, there are numerous walk-ons, many of whom have earned scholarships. Top of the list includes linebacker Payton Wilgar, who led the nation in linebacker interceptions as a sophomore (3); full-back Mason Wake, tight end Lane Lunt, safety Hayden Livingston — who had an end zone interception against Arizona last year — and giant offensive lineman Brayden Keim.

Jamal Willis, a former BYU and San Francisco 49ers running back who tutors football speed through Cutback Elite, got an early look at Allgeier when he came to Provo. He saw what Sitake and Lamb saw in Allgeier when he came out of Fontana, California, as an under-recruited football star.

Willis says the way recruiting is heading, more and more college coaches want ready-made athletes, they don’t want to put in the work to develop them. They don’t want the “fixer-uppers” because they want them to just plug into the program and go.

“Tyler wasn’t a fixer-upper, but he was very raw,” said Willis, who worked with Allgeier after he came to BYU, overseeing skill development drills in the offseason.

“At the end of the day, BYU invested in his raw ability and his skills came out. I have developed into a physical talent that has speed and he can catch the ball. He honestly has become the prototypical back who can do it all.”

Perhaps that’s what Atlanta saw in Allgeier. A guy who tied for the national lead in scoring touchdowns by a running back and a bludgeoning runner who ranked among the nation’s leaders in yards after contact.

That video of the hammer punch that caused a fumble in the Arizona State game didn’t hurt.

Walk-ons.

They can be amazing.

Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) watches from the sideline as BYU falls to UAB.

BYu running back Tyler Allgeier watches from the sideline during game against UAB in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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