SEATTLE — Washington walk-on defensive linemen John Clark and Josiah Bronson both practiced at times with the starters this spring.
Come August, they’ll compete with the likes of senior Benning Potoa’e, junior Levi Onwuzurike, redshirt freshmen Sam Taimani and Tuli Letuligasenoa and true freshmen Jacob Bandes and Faatui Tuitele for a consistent role in UW’s defensive line rotation.
And they’ll do so on scholarship.
The Husky seniors were officially put on scholarship during a team meeting on Sunday, a UW spokesperson confirmed on Thursday.
This isn’t Bronson’s first time receiving a scholarship with a Division I program. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Kent product began his career as a scholarship defensive lineman at Temple in 2015, before transferring to UW prior to the 2017 season. After sitting out a season to meet NCAA eligibility requirements, he contributed 11 tackles with a tackle for loss and a sack in 12 games last fall.
Clark, meanwhile, arrived at UW in 2015 and posted one tackle in six games during his first two seasons on campus. He missed the entire 2017 season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral and the meniscus in his left knee in the first padded practice of the previous spring. Still, the 6-4, 280-pound defensive lineman from Marysville Getchell High School made a remarkable recovery and produced five tackles in nine games in 2018.
Both Clark and Bronson overcame injuries and disappointment to eventually claw up a competitive UW depth chart.
And on Sunday, both were rewarded.
“We would want a kid to come here on any circumstance if we thought he could really help us,” UW head coach Chris Petersen said of the program’s walk-on policy on national signing day in February. “Now, how much he could help us depends on all this intangible stuff and how they develop, which we don’t know until we get them here.
“But I think it’s an important part of our program, and we take pride in that. Eventually some of those guys will earn scholarships.”
In Petersen’s five-plus seasons at UW, there have been more than a few. On the current roster alone, senior defensive back Myles Bryant and junior outside linebacker Ryan Bowman enrolled as walk-ons before ultimately earning scholarships (and starting roles). Three in-state products that are ranked as three-star prospects by 247Sports — Bellevue linebacker Drew Fowler and Seattle O’Dea defensive back Mishael Powell and linebacker Ruperake Fuavai — are set to walk on this summer.
Those three — along with Clark and Bronson — all hail from the state of Washington, and they all decided to roll the dice and walk on at UW.
According to 247Sports national editor Brandon Huffman, that’s not some big coincidence.
“You see there’s been a track record recently of walk-ons that have gotten on the field, and what do they have in common?” Huffman said prior to national signing day. “In the case of Ryan Bowman, he was a local kid. With Powell and Fowler, they’ve grown up as football fans in a time when Washington has gone on the ascent. It’s, ‘I dream of playing for the hometown school, and I know that I’m going to get the development and opportunity to earn a scholarship down the line.’
“I think that just speaks to the level of where the program is at right now. This wasn’t necessarily happening under Sarkisian or Willingham, where preferred walk-ons would go elsewhere where the programs seemed to generally be better. The program had kind of been down for a while. There wasn’t as much excitement for the in-state kids as there is now.”