UCF’s Weaver goes from walk-on to starting RB
He was a biology major with a high SAT score when he first came
to Central Florida, and a bit undersized even for a science whiz.
All Ronnie Weaver really wanted was another chance to play
He got way more than that. Try starting at running back.
With a lot of heartbreaks and headaches along the way, Weaver
leads the Knights in touchdowns and yards rushing heading into
Saturday’s Conference USA showdown against East Carolina. Not bad
for a former walk-on.
”It’s an inspirational thing to others, guys who may just love
the game, who may think they’re not big enough, not fast enough,”
senior defensive back Reggie Weams said. ”Well, Ronnie Weaver, he
Not without some bumps.
There wasn’t a Division I program that offered Weaver a
scholarship after a solid senior season at Vero Beach High School,
about 90 minutes southeast of Orlando. He was too small and too
At least that’s what he was told.
Weaver was a smart student – ”always good in math and
science,” he says – and came to UCF in 2007 because of the
educational programs and family in the area. Plus, it was close to
home and offered an outside shot at major college football.
His mother, Patricia, practically begged UCF coach George
O’Leary to give her son a look. Weaver, listed at a generous 6-feet
and 209 pounds these days, was invited to fall camp.
His presence was felt immediately.
”I saw him a little bit that first summer, working out in the
gym, running on campus. I didn’t realize he was trying out,”
senior linebacker Lawrence Young said. ”Then all of the sudden
he’s getting some special teams play in practice. This small guy
was just blowing people up, lighting up punt returners. It was
Weaver worked his way into almost every special teams phase,
often picking up penalties before learning how to control his
hard-hitting instincts. The aggressive play and tireless work ethic
didn’t go unnoticed.
After a strong fall camp, O’Leary called Weaver into his office
one day after practice. Weaver wasn’t sure if he was getting cut or
getting a promotion.
”I really didn’t know what was happening. As a player, you try
to do your best to stay out of coach’s office,” Weaver said,
chuckling. ”But when he called me in, I really didn’t know what to
expect. I was like, ‘Oh, man. What did I do?’ I went into his
office and it was the best news ever.”
Indeed, a scholarship to call his own.
The first thing Weaver did was call his mother.
”She was actually at the grocery store shopping and she started
jumping around, acting crazy, acting a fool in public because she
heard I had got a scholarship,” he said. ”I still can’t show my
That’s only the beginning of Weaver’s journey.
All-American running back Kevin Smith left for the NFL in 2008
and Weaver moved to the top of the depth chart. At first, Weaver
struggled to learn the playbook and was slow to adapt to his new
role. He quickly lost the starting gig to Brynn Harvey and went
back to special teams. But he studied the offensive playbook
Then Harvey tore a ligament in his knee last year, forcing him
to redshirt this season. This time, Weaver was ready. He took
advantage of the opportunity and became the clear choice to start
at running back.
Weaver has a team-leading 458 yards rushing and eight touchdowns
through seven games, leading UCF (5-2, 3-0) to its best start since
1998 – Daunte Culpepper’s senior season. And a win against East
Carolina (5-2, 4-0) on Saturday would make the Knights the
frontrunner to secure a spot in the Conference USA title game out
of the East Division.
”I’m sure there are better running backs around. But what you
do is judge a person on their abilities,” O’Leary said. ”What
we’re getting out of Ronnie Weaver is way above what I thought we’d
be getting. I think he’s learned how to be a running back. Just a
great kid. He earned the right to have a scholarship and he’s sure
utilizing it very well.”
Weaver is also a little different from his teammates.
He originally wanted to be an optometrist but became more
interested in the business side, so he changed his major to health
services administration. He regularly practices Yoga to expand his
flexibility and breathing, even trying to recruit teammates to do
the stretches before games.
His family is clearly noticeable and audible at home and away
games – ”The Weaver Clan,” as O’Leary calls them – and are big
supporters of the program. He’s given them plenty to cheer
Even for him, sometimes that’s hard to imagine.
”It’s been a journey. A lot of hard work. A lot of dedication.
A lot of studying. A lot of praying. A lot of understanding the ups
and downs, bumps and bruises, blood, sweat and tears to get to this
point,” Weaver said. ”And it ain’t over yet.”