Dear Collegiate Athlete/ Unheralded Walk-On…

I am proof that anything can be accomplished with the right mindset and work ethic. According to Rivals, I was a zero-star athlete with zero division 1 scholarships. I decided to walk-on for the University of Tulsa football team, hoping to be awarded a full scholarship and eventually a starting position. My name is Hayden Carman.

In the summer of 2012, I enrolled in summer classes at TU and was also involved in team workouts. This was an opportunity to take the first step towards my goals and make a great first impression. Making an adjustment to a student-athlete was tough for me. I was a quiet and shy kid who did not have many responsibilities before college, so it was a bit stressful at times.

After the summer, I made the 105-man roster for fall camp and felt the path to my goal would be feasible. Or so I thought. After my 4th practice, I wanted to quit. The weight combination of being an unheralded walk-on, having only a few coaches that knew my name, and being involved with football for more than half the time in a day was too much for me. I wanted to quit multiple times after that practice, but that occasion always comes to memory. Whenever I thought about giving up, I did not want to disappoint my family and friends who wanted me to do well, so this influenced me to keep going.

After my second fall camp in 2013, I moved up on the depth chart and practiced with the 2’s during weekday practices to prepare for the upcoming opponent. I continued to improve and received unexpected playing time during my redshirt freshman season. In August 2014, I was still in the rotation for playing time and achieved my first goal. I was awarded a full scholarship. That was one of the happiest days of my life. Becoming a starter was my next priority.

Fast forward to 2016, this was my senior year (“the last ride”). I had one more chance to show my value. During the winter/summer strength and conditioning phase, no one worked harder than me. I was first in the majority of half-gassers, 110s, prowler sprints, and had significant strength gains. I was hell-bent on finishing with a high note. A team award (Brett Adams Iron Will) was given to me and I was named a starter.

We finished the 2016 season at a record of 10-3 and were the Miami Beach Bowl Champions. That team was my favorite during my college career. To continue my list of accomplishments, on the Sunday after the 2017 NFL Draft, I received a call from the Minnesota Vikings who invited me to their mini camp as a free agent. I accepted the invitation and spent 3 days with the team. Unfortunately, I was released and decided to retire from football. This decision was easy for me because the NFL was not a main goal and I was content on my accomplishments. It was time for me to move on.

If I could give advice for a student-athlete to succeed, my 3 rules are:

1) Be a student of the sport you are playing

2) Be a “gym rat”, spend hours in the weight room to improve your strength and conditioning

3) Be great at things that require no talent

I hope this letter inspires you to strive for high goals. If you are ever in struggle or feel like giving up, remember why you started. Think about the people who want you to succeed. It may take some time, but the reward is always worth the process. Good luck and I hope you tackle your goals.

Below contains links to articles about my successes if you are interested in more details.



Hayden Carman