Coach Herman

One will play for the same program where his grandfather and his father played. One will join his older brother. One participated in a high school all-star game that featured the commitment of Katy running back Deondrick Glass.

Together, these stories are the stories of new members of the Texas Longhorns preferred walk-on program, which has kicked into high gear during the 2019 cycle under the guidance of Director of High School Relations Bob Shipley and Assistant Director of Player Personnel John Michael Jones, both of whom earned praise from head coach Tom Herman on Wednesday.

“I want to take a second to brag on our walk-on program,” Herman said during his National Signing Day press conference. “It’s something that we made a very big emphasis on when we got here was to grow that and enhance that. Over the last two years, John Michael Jones and Bob Shipley have done a phenomenal job of bringing in some really, really talented players, really strong academic students and guys to our culture. So I want to thank them for that.”

Last season, Shipley and Jones assembled a class that included a 5’5 spark plug at running back in Jarrett Smith, who turned down numerous Ivy League offers, Longhorns legacy Luke Brockermeyer, a consensus three-star linebacker who had been committed to Rice, and Under Armour All-American long snapper Justin Mader, the No. 2 player at his position nationally.

Mader was good enough to earn the starting job on field-goal attempts and should take over punting duties with the graduation of Jak Holbrook.

None of the 2019 group has a path towards playing time comparable to an elite specialist like Mader, but overall, the collection of players appears more talented from top to bottom, with multiple players who had Division I offers.

Some are legacies, but others simply grew up wanting to wear burnt orange and have enough family resources that giving up a scholarship to walk on at Texas was a legitimate consideration.

“The tie to Texas certainly helps, because I think when you bleed burnt orange, it’s a lot easier to take that path as a walk on. To know that you’re going to have to fight, scratch, claw, and do everything that you can to earn your way on to the field for the University of Texas. But for them, for the most part, all of that is worth it.”

For these players, passing up other opportunities to boost the program’s grade point average and hone the sharpness of scholarship players in practice is worth it.

The top-line goal is to ascend to a starting position like Dylan Haines, but there are other success stories in recent years like that of Jarmarquis Durst, the former Tarleton State standout who overcame difficult personal circumstances to ultimately earn a scholarship at Texas and contribute on special teams. Two other walk ons, wide receiver Phillip Moeller and offensive lineman Austin Allsup, also earned scholarships last fall.

Austin St. Michael’s Academy QB Sam Saxton

The grandson of legendary Texas running back James Saxton, who became the first Longhorns All-American at the position in school history in 1961, the 6’5, 190-pounder was committed to Southern Miss from August until early December.

Saxton also held offers from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Memphis, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Rutgers, Toledo, Tulane, and others.

So the former Austin Westlake and Austin High quarterback has an unusual profile for a preferred walk on thanks to the Power Five offer from the Scarlet Knights and multiple offers from Group of Five programs. Consider Saxton arguably the most talented walk-on quarterback at Texas in at least the last decade.

And though Saxton is considered a pro-style quarterback, he does have enough athleticism to credibly run Herman’s offense — he ran a 4.76 40-yard dash and a 4.34 shuttle last year at a regional camp for The Opening.

As a junior at Austin High, he threw for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns to go along with three rushing touchdowns.

A consensus three-star prospect, Saxton is ranked as the No. 1,186 player nationally, the No. 38 pro-style quarterback, and the No. 149 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Austin Westlake LB Jake Ehlinger

Originally offered the opportunity back in mid-November, Ehlinger took his time before opting to join his older brother Sam, the team’s starting quarterback, down the road in Austin.

A 6’0, 205-pounder ranked as a consensus two-star prospect, Ehlinger chose Texas over offers from Brown, Penn, and the University of the Incarnate Word. His highlights show a player with excellent physicality, instincts, and tackling ability.

“They both have high football IQs,” Westlake coach Todd Dodge told the Austin American-Statesman. “Jake, he’s the quarterback of our defense. He’s just as important to our team as Sam was when he played for us.”

As a junior, Ehlinger recorded over 100 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, and four forced fumbles.