Two Merced County stars ready for challenge as college walk-ons
Former El Capitan receiver Ronnie Harris went up for a pass in the end zone and pulled down a touchdown catch over former Merced star Dhammer Warren during the South’s practice on Tuesday night at Atwater High.
Immediately Warren complained of pass interference.
The conversation carried on while the two all-stars went to the sideline for a water break. The conversation could have easily shifted to their next challenge.
Both Harris and Warren are taking similar paths as walk-on freshman next year as they pursue their dream of playing college football. Harris is headed to Sacramento State and Warren will attempt to earn his spot on the team at the University of Arizona.
Harris and Warren will team up with the rest of the South in Saturday’s 34th annual North/South Rotary Bob Green Football Classic at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Golden Valley High. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The path of a walk-on football player is not an easy one. Walk-ons aren’t on scholarship. They must pay their own way and earn their spot on the football team. Both Warren and Harris are able to help pay their way through school with other financial aid.
Both Harris and Warren know they are headed to a program where nothing is promised. Everything has to be earned. They are starting at the bottom of the depth chart and have to fight their way up to earn practice time.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge,” Harris said. “I have to prove myself. All the players there are D-I players. I have to keep working hard and prove I deserve to be there.”
Harris had a scholarship offer from Western Oregon. He could have gone the junior college route with the hopes of earning a scholarship the next two years.
However, Harris has confidence that he will eventually earn a scholarship at Sacramento State. Harris was an all-Central California Conference first-team selection and Merced Sun-Star All-Area selection after hauling in 47 catches for 690 yards and nine touchdowns.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “My dream has always been to play D-I football since I was 8 years old. I’m excited to get to work.”
Harris has a big 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame that can play well at the college level.
“From day one when he caught a go route, he made an impression really quick,” said South coach Mike Parsons. “We played him when I was at (Merced College) and he torched us. I know about him.”
Warren was a two-way star at Merced High at quarterback and defensive back. He was named the CCC Most Valuable Player after leading the Bears to a perfect 10-0 regular season record. Warren is also the reigning Sun-Star Player of the Year after rushing for 674 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with 885 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. Warren also had three interceptions on defense.
“He’s special,” Parsons said. “No doubt he’s a next-level player. He’s amongst all-stars and he stands out.”
Warren passed on an offer from Montana State Northern and also decided not to start at a junior college. Warren knows the attitude he needs to take to Tucson.
“I’ve got to come in with a chip on my shoulder,” Warren said. “I’ve got to work harder than everyone else.”
Warren has watched Arizona practice in person and feels he can compete. For the first time, he’ll be able to focus on defense.
“For sure that’s going to help me,” Warren said. “In the past, my time has been divided. I had to provide for my team.”
Will he miss quarterback?
“I’m sure I’ll miss it, but playing quarterback in college is a different deal,” Warren said. “Most running quarterbacks don’t make it.”