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August 21, 2014
Five walk-ons awarded scholarships
Hours later, Jordan Simone was still on the verge of tears.
Earlier, he joyfully cried.
"It still hasn't even hit me that I'm on scholarship," said Simone, a junior safety who is competing for a starting job. "I guess it'll hit me when I go to pick up a check with Mike (Bercovici), D.J. (Foster), Ellis (Jefferson) and those guys. Usually I just drop them off and they go get theirs and I'm sitting in their car.
"I can't say thanks enough to coach for giving us all the opportunity and I'm so happy for these guys too, they've worked their tail off. It's only going to make me work harder, I'm really excited."
Simone was one of five players awarded scholarships by ASU coach Todd Graham in a team meeting Wednesday, joined by junior wide receiver Frederick Gammage, senior offensive linemen Chip Sarafin, junior linebacker Jason Franklin and redshirt freshman linebacker Brandon Matthews.
For Simone and Gammage, the decision didn't come as a shock. Both have been on the two-deep all year in practice and Gammage played quite a bit last season, catching six balls.
But when cameras were in the team meeting room just as they had been earlier in the week the the school unveiled new jerseys, they initially thought something similar might be in store.
Gammage noticed a red folder however, one that he's never seen Graham with, and realized the significance of the day might be much more personal.
"I had meetings with coach Graham (earlier in the year) and he said I'm on the right track, just keep taking care of your grades and keep working and you'll eventually get one and it worked out," Gammage said.
The other three players aren't in the three deep and all said they were taken by surprise if not truly shocked by the announcement. Graham of course was not, and had a message for them and others.
"I don't think there are a lot of schools around that are putting that much investment into their walk-ons and I know our guys walking on here are motivated," Graham said. "If you work hard and do things the right way, maybe you're not the best guy, but there's a place for you.
"I like guys that have been here. I like to hire guys from within, I like to promote guys from within and I like guys that have invested and deserve it and earn it and I think it did a lot for our team today. I think it did a lot for our team and our spirit."
Franklin and Matthews are slated to play on special teams only, and had no expectation of being awarded a scholarship. But Graham said players who have stayed the course under his leadership have always, to the best of his recollection, been rewarded eventually if they stayed the course.
"The way they guys reacted showed that guys not appreciated us, but were happy to us, and that meant the world to us," said Franklin, a fourth year junior. "Obviously we think about our parents, my parents ran through my mind and all the struggles we've had. It just made it all unbelievable, just an incredible feeling."
Graham said following Wednesday night's practice that early in camp it was clear who would be the team's captains for the season.
Senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and senior offensive tackle Jamil Douglas were selected for the honor even before camp had started. After two days Graham decided on senior tight end De'Marieya Nelson and senior safety Damarious Randall as the other two captains.
"The best players are leaders, no doubt about that," Graham said.
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