Chip Sarafin among 5 walk-ons put on scholarship by ASU
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State on Wednesday gave five walk-ons the signing day they never had, putting them on full scholarships.
Redshirt junior safety Jordan Simone, redshirt sophomore receiver Fred Gammage, redshirt senior offensive lineman Chip Sarafin, redshirt junior linebacker Jason Franklin and redshirt freshman linebacker Brandon Mathews all received scholarships in a ceremony in front of the whole team.
Sarafin, in his fifth year at ASU, made national headlines last week when he came out as gay, becoming Division I football’s first active openly gay player. Sarafin was the team’s only fifth-year walk-on.
Sarafin admits he had days toiling on the scout team where he wasn’t sure it was worth it anymore but always remembered the commitment he made.
"When I chose to come to ASU, I came here for the long haul," Sarafin said. "It wasn’t a question of getting a scholarship or not. Obviously that was a goal I had, but in the long run I was devoted to the program, and I was going to stay here until my time was up or until somebody dragged me away."
Coach Todd Graham tweeted out a photo of the five signing their scholarship offers.
Congrats to Jordan Simone, Fred Gammage, Chip Sarafin, Brandon Matthews, and Jason Franklin being put on scholarship! pic.twitter.com/UqrttoRJp2
— Todd Graham (@CoachGrahamASU) August 20, 2014
"We talked to our guys about investment," Graham said Wednesday night. "What’s interesting is most walk-ons quit after six months. Then there’s the next group that quits after three years. I don’t know if they run out of money or what. But the guys that have stayed on my team — I don’t think we’ve ever had any stay their entire career that haven’t earned a scholarship."
At a team meeting Wednesday afternoon, a few players began to realize something was up because cameras were in the room to capture their reaction.
"I was like ‘This is weird, are they unveiling a new uniform again or something?’" Simone said. "Then coach comes up and starts talking about guys with character and guys that work hard every day and didn’t get a chance in high school to get a scholarship, and I start thinking ‘Uhhhh.’ My heart starts beating. Then he goes ‘Jordan Simone, you’re getting a scholarship today.’
"I broke down. It’s been such a long journey."
Graham said he was most taken Wednesday by the genuinely excited reaction of the rest of the team to the players being put on scholarship.
"Every one of the guys I gave a scholarship to obviously was very emotional and thanked me, but I got more from all the other players saying ‘Hey coach, thanks, that meant a lot to our team, those guys really deserve that,’" Graham said.
Simone, who had been competing to start and will likely see playing time at bandit safety this season, originally walked on at Washington State. After a coaching change there, he left the school and followed current ASU safeties coach Chris Ball to Tempe.
"It still hasn’t even hit me that I’m on scholarship," Simone said. "I guess it will hit me when I go pick up a check with Mike (Bercovici) and D.J. (Foster) and Ellis (Jefferson) and those guys. I usually just drop them off and they go in and get theirs while I’m sitting in my car."
Simone’s father, Ron, also walked on as a wide receiver at ASU in 1983 and earned a scholarship after two seasons.
"When I talked to my dad, he was really happy, and my mom was really happy," Simone said. "The tears were flowing."
Gammage should be a key contributor this season and has earned a place in ASU’s rotation of five "starting" receivers behind Jaelen Strong. Mathews and Franklin should contribute on special teams.
Sarafin has yet to get into a game for ASU and has worked on scout team in each of his seasons at ASU. Naturally, it felt good to have all his hard work pay off Wednesday.
"It felt great," Sarfin said. "There are a lot of deserving walk-ons on our team, and for coach Graham to select me I felt very honored and blessed for that."
Graham revealed Wednesday night ASU had named senior quarterback Taylor Kelly, senior left tackle Jamil Douglas, senior tight end/linebacker De’Marieya Nelson and senior safety Damarious Randall team captains for this season.
Kelly and Douglas were made team captains before fall camp started Aug.1, and Nelson and Randall were made captains a few days into camp.
"Our two leaders in my mind — Taylor Kelly is the leader and Jamil Douglas," Graham said. "If you said ‘Who are the captains?’ those are the captains. We obviously named four, and Taylor and Jamil had a lot to do with naming the other two."
ASU will also have game day captains each week.