During the Arizona Wildcats' 15 spring football practices, walk-ons Jared Tevis and Johnny Jackson received long looks and opened eyes.
No scholarship required.
The two walk-ons were easily the best stories during a transitional spring, the first of coach Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Arizona.
Tevis, a Canyon del Oro High School graduate, worked his way onto the first-team defense as a safety with his physical play and mental toughness. With Adam Hall now out with a knee injury, Tevis figures to start fall practices on the first team.
Given a chance to receive regular reps, Jackson - a wide receiver from San Diego - thrived: He caught five passes for 90 yards in Saturday's spring game at Kino Stadium.
While spring-ball has long been a showcase for walk-ons and underdogs, Tevis and Jackson are different. Though they're undersized - both Tevis and Jackson stand 5 feet 10 inches tall - the two have played well enough, and hard enough, to warrant extra reps.
"In the springtime, because of injuries and senior attrition, a lot of guys get a chance to prove themselves," Rodriguez said. "Jared Tevis and Johnny Jackson have taken the opportunities and made the most of 'em."
Because of it, Tevis - brother of former Boise State linebacker Aaron Tevis - and Jackson have more than just a chance to play: It's a real opportunity.
Here's what the Wildcats are saying about the break-through walk-ons:
Jackson, on what he and Tevis have in common: "We both work hard, and we both feel like we're good enough to play here. Each and every day, we come out with a chip on our shoulder. We hold nothing back."
Linebacker Jake Fischer on Tevis: "He's one of those guys; he doesn't take a practice off. He flies around. … He's going to get that scholarship. Even when he does, he's not going to let down at all. He believes he deserves to be here, and we do, too. He's just going to keep ballin.'"
Rodriguez, on what makes Tevis special: "One, he's physical. He loves playing the game. He's a quick learner, and he's eager to prove himself. Jared has that chip on his shoulder a little bit. He's been one of the most consistent players we've had on defense so far."
Jackson, on getting a chance: "I appreciate it a lot. I do feel like I can contribute to this team. I'm not where I want to be by any means yet, but I do feel like we're getting an opportunity. I'm grateful for that."
Tevis, on his opportunity: "I knew I could play at this level."
Quarterback Matt Scott on Tevis and Jackson: "This team's had great walk-ons for years. They just never got a chance, per se. Just because they're walk-ons doesn't mean they can't play."
Six walk-ons to watch
• Jared Tevis. No player helped his cause more during spring drills than Tevis, a Canyon del Oro High School graduate. The safety had five tackles and a team-best two broken-up passes in Saturday's spring game.
• Johnny Jackson. "Jumpin' Johnny" played well in all three spring scrimmages. Saturday, the wide receiver caught five passes for a team-best 90 yards.
• Jake Smith. The former Syracuse and Youngstown State kicker pushed starter John Bonano all spring. Smith hit the only field goal he attempted in Saturday's scrimmage, a 33-yarder.
• Tevin Hood. A University of San Diego transfer, he had a solid camp and could see time at nose tackle this fall.
• Blake Brady. The third-year defensive back had 3 1/2 tackles in the spring game.
• Justin Samuels. A cornerback, he joined the team last month, and played well enough to warrant serious playing time in the spring game. Samuels carries a double-major in business management and business marketing, with minors in psychology and pre-law.