CWU football looking to utilize January try-outs to fill roster

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Nathan Blauman #23 is trying to make the CWU football team during January tryouts.

Evan Couch, Contributor

With lower numbers than usual, the football program is looking to find players through their January try-outs. 

The try-out process is often confused with the term “walk-on.” What you may think of as a walk-on player, someone who came out to practices unrecruited and made the team, is actually termed a “try-out” player. 

“A lot of people feel they can come out and just start going to practice in the fall,” said Director of Athletics Dennis Francois. “It just doesn’t work that way.” 

Francois explained the difference between walk-on players and try-out players. Walk-on players receive a roster spot during the fall season but typically do not receive financial aid. Try-out players are any students who want to play football and attend January try-outs.   

“Some kids get invited to walk-on, where they are not getting any athletic aid but have a spot on the 105- or 110-man roster,” Francois said. “That’s what you would consider to be a walk-on.”

During the fall season, CWU will hold anywhere from 105 to 110 players on their roster, as set by the NCAA and Title IX rules. According to Francois, depending on the state of the program, these numbers often change.

Due to COVID-19 and players’ personal choices, assistant head coach and tight ends coach John Picha said this year they have been looking harder to find players.

Picha discussed outlets used to get the word out on try-outs this winter. 

“We posted it on Facebook and Twitter and tried to hit a few of those outlets,” Picha said. “Just to let people know that we’re having a trial.” 

“This year is obviously its own situation,” Picha said. “That’s why we were looking pretty hard to find guys to come out and fill spots.” 

Picha also explained how many players they typically pick up from the try-out process. 

“We have about 30 guys that come in at that time to work out,” Picha said. “We probably pick five to ten of them, we do an academic check on them and that will knock a few of them off, so we usually pick up two or three guys during that period,” 

After taking these players through spring ball, only one or two will actually make the roster for the fall season, according to Picha. 

“This year I think we brought in like six or eight guys,” Picha said. “Not all made it.”

Walk-on and try-out players “come in with a fire in their belly to prove themselves,” Picha noted.

Nathan Blauman, a first-year student, is one of the guys trying to prove themselves. 

Blauman has been working with the team since fall camp started in August doing managerial work. His tasks include equipment, coaching help, setting up practice, running music and any other tasks that the team may need. He hopes to make the team as a running back during the January try-outs.

Blauman played high school football for the Wenatchee Panthers, where he had some outstanding seasons and impressive accolades as varsity running back. He had a couple of offers from smaller schools as well as attending a visit here at Central. He reached out to coaches at Washington State University (WSU) and was offered a preferred walk-on to WSU’s football program. 

 After graduation in 2020, Blauman planned to play ball with WSU. However, COVID-19 had a severe impact on his decision to do so.

“They didn’t let the walk-ons go because of COVID,” Blauman said. “I did online school for a bit, and then I ended up withdrawing last November because it wasn’t really worth the time or the money to stay at home during school.”

This decision is what led Blauman to withdraw from WSU and pursue a try-out spot as a running back at CWU.

“This is kind of my last chance,” Blauman said. “I want to make it count.” 

Thanks to Blauman’s opportunity to work with the team since August, he has been able to form relationships and build connections. 

“It’s helped a lot with building relationships with a lot of the players,” Blauman said. “If I would have just come in as a walk-on, it would have been a lot harder to build some of those connections and relationships.” 

With try-outs in January, Blauman has been preparing by working out to cut weight, as well as observing and studying during practices. 

“I try to keep my distance,” said Blauman. “I just watch and kind of see what they do,”

Blauman is experiencing first-hand how difficult this process is. If he could offer advice to others in his position, he said he’d tell them: “Just believe in yourself, work really hard and prepare mentally physically and emotionally so when you have that try-out, you’re prepared for it.”