Catching up fast

By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 17, 2004

After semester away from football, sophomore Eidson has gone from walk-on to key player at UA

Less than 24 hours before the UA football team's season finale against Arizona State last year, sophomore receiver Ryan Eidson received a phone call that his house had been broken into.

It shouldn't be a surprise that he responded with his first two career catches in the face of a little adversity.

Eidson has battled adversity ever since he graduated from De La Salle High School in Northern California, and more recently since he made the decision to walk onto the UA team.

His first semester after graduating from the Concord, Calif., prep school - the same program that rattled off 151 consecutive wins until the streak was snapped two weeks ago by Bellevue (Wash.) High - Eidson found himself still practicing with the De La Salle football team.

He was a college-bound student relegated to practicing with a high school team.

Eidson had a desire to play Division-I college football, but no school wanted to give him a scholarship.

So Eidson took a semester off, and that's all it took.

After just a semester away from football, Eidson had enough. His desire to play again was so great, he chose to walk on to the Arizona football team. Ever since, he has worked his way into a prominent role with the Wildcats.

More importantly, he did so with little incentive other than a hope of some playing time.

"They have something special about them," UA head coach Mike Stoops said of walk-ons like Eidson. "To walk on and do what you ask them to do day in and day out and not even get school paid for is very very difficult to do. So I give them a lot of credit. I think they're special people."

Stoops even went as far as saying Eidson would earn a scholarship next season, the ultimate show of confidence a coach can give someone who goes as far as paying to play for a team.

"I know I can play at this level," Eidson said. "I'm not as big as everybody, but it's fun and exciting that I can compete with these guys. When you look at me you don't expect much, but it's rewarding."

For Eidson, it's hard to believe only seven game appearances and just two catches could be so rewarding, but as a walk-on, he had to start somewhere.

"You've got to do above and beyond. You've got to the same thing as scholarship guys and more," said Eidson.

Eidson started as a scout team player and is now the team's starting punt returner, also seeing action in the Wildcats' receiver rotation.

Through the Wildcats' first two games he has yet to record a catch, but has four punt returns for 37 yards, including an 18-yard return.

"That's a huge role. It can change a ballgame, and so far, so good," said receiver coach Charlie Williams.

Williams said he has been impressed with Eidson's work ethic and his ability to make catches and run good routes, something he believes comes from his high school program, one that never lost while he wore a De La Salle uniform.

In just his second season in Tucson, Eidson still has a few years ahead of him. No matter what happens, he'll always remember those first two catches in Tempe.

"As I looked back I was like, 'Wow. When I got a chance, I stepped up'," he said. "I was pretty excited that I got a couple catches in the Pacific 10 Conference when not many people expect that out of me."

It's possible that they didn't expect much out of him then, but the Wildcats have surely come to expect it now.