What is a preferred walk-on in football?

A preferred walk-on in football refers to a football player that is essentially guaranteed a spot on the roster but is not on scholarship.

College football teams only have so many scholarships to give out. Once they run out they will ask the players they want on their team to become preferred walk-ons.

These players are more or less guaranteed a spot on the roster but will have to pay for their schooling.

These players are going to come into the season as a member of the team and will attend practices and team meetings like any other player.

Generally preferred walk-ons are going to attempt to earn themselves a scholarship by their second season. To earn a scholarship players will usually have to be good enough to start for the football team.

Preferred walk-ons are often referred to as PWOs, learn more about walking on to tryouts in our guide to what happens at football tryouts and how to prepare.

Preferred walk-on vs regular walk on

Now that you know what a PWO is in football you may be wondering how these differ from a regular walk on.

Generally speaking a non-preferred walk on is going to be anyone who wants to try out for the team.

These players will show up to a tryout consisting of only walk-on players. If any of these players are good enough they will be asked to come to training camp.

Preferred walk-ons on the other hand are guaranteed a spot on the first day of training camp.

Additionally, it is common for PWO to have received a scholarship offer from a smaller school in the FBS or FCS. These players often turn down these scholarships in order to walk on at a power five school.

For this reason, the PWOs are often quite talented and generally better players than regular walk ons.

In short preferred walks are often guaranteed a spot on the team while regular walk-ons are students of the school trying out for the football team.

How to become a preferred walk on?

If you are looking to become a PWO in football you are going to have to impress the coaching staff.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that the coaches are able to watch you play. Ideally, you want this done in person but video is often the best way to do this.

Without coaches seeing you play football there is no chance you are getting a PWO offer. College football is a competitive game which means you are going to have to prove to the coach you deserve a spot on his roster.

The next tip to becoming a preferred walk-on is to play a position of need. When walking onto a team you are already at a disadvantage.

The roster is the most the way full which is why you need to find the holes in the depth chart that the coach needs to fill. At the end of the day you want to solve a problem for this coach.

If you have a talent or skill that the team is lacking your odds of being a PWO go way up.

Do preferred walk-ons get meals?

Yes due to a change in the NCAA rules walk-ons and preferred walks on get meals in division one programs.

Though this was not always the case, many players even scholarship players told stories of when they were unable to afford food while playing NCAA sports.

On top of meals many football players also ask whether walk-ons get gear. The answer to this question is yes. If a player makes the team and is on the roster then they will receive the same gear as the rest of their teammates.


I hope you enjoyed this guide to preferred walk ons in college football. If you have any questions feel free to reach out below.

If you are looking to learn more about walks ons or football in general see our articles on gray shirting and red shirting.

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