Sac State football team awards scholarships to 6 walk-on players

Parker Clayton, Ja’Narrick James and Abel Ordaz among those selected


Shaun Holkko

From left, Sac State football players, freshman WR Parker Clayton, senior RB Ja’Narrick James and sophomore DB Abel Ordaz pose for a photo after practice on Thursday, Sept. 19. All three players were walk-ons and recently earned scholarships.

Jordan Parker

Before the 2019 football season began, Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor surprised six of his walk-on players by awarding them scholarships.

As walk-ons, the six players had decided to join the team without being on scholarship. Among the six were senior running back Ja’Narrick James, sophomore defensive back Abel Ordaz and freshman wide receiver Parker Clayton, who have all made their mark on the field already.

Seniors Kevin McKinney, Blake Nydam and Calvin Martin also earned scholarships. All six players’ time and energy invested in the program was validated by Taylor awarding them scholarships.

“It was incredible,” Clayton said about earning a scholarship. “I’ve been working so hard, and of course that’s everyone’s dream.”

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Clayton, who went to Folsom High School, decided to stay close to home and walk-on at Sac State despite receiving interest from other schools.

“This was the best fit,” Clayton said. “I thought they would really have something great going on with the coaches and the culture.”

Taylor went on to describe what the three players did to earn their scholarships.

“I’d say just contributing to the team, having a great attitude and doing everything they’re asked to do,” said Taylor. “Whether it’s a scout team scenario or they’re participating in the game, they’re huge contributors.”

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For Ordaz, having a scholarship wasn’t his main focus because he just wanted to play and help his team in any way possible.

You know, I just love the game,” Ordaz said. “That’s the one thing that pushed me and drove me every day. I love this game, and that made me put it into perspective that this is what I want to do.” 

Taylor raved about Ordaz’s ability both on the field and in the classroom.

“He’s a great student, a really hard worker and a very good football player,” Taylor said. “He’s a guy (that) recently earned a scholarship because of his overall contribution to the program and the things that he does on and off the field.”

James, who was an all-league player while at Santa Rosa Junior College, said he has been working toward earning a scholarship since he was a teenager.

“When they told me that they would put us on scholarship, it was a heartwarming experience,” James said. “It was a life achievement of mine that I had (wanted) since I was 14 years old. My main goal was just to get a scholarship from a Division I school.”

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For Taylor, walk-on players will always be contributors on the Sac State football team.

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“Walk-ons are a big part of our program,” Taylor said. It’s really important that we’re able to recruit and develop guys that don’t necessarily have scholarships.”