GAINESVILLE -- Mark Herndon is no longer a walk-on running back.
Florida’s third-string tailback behind starter Matt Jones and backup Mack Brown was awarded a scholarship Tuesday.
Coach Will Muschamp announced the honor in front of the whole team, immediately making the sophomore cry.
“I just broke down. It brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “The first thing I did was call my mom. She was ecstatic.”
Herndon (5-9, 193) has impressed during training camp, leapfrogging heralded freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane on the depth chart.
“When I first got here, Coach Muschamp told me that it’s at least two years until you get a scholarship, so I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “When he told me today, I felt like I was in a dream. My mouth just dropped.”
(Coach Brian White hugs tailback Mark Herndon | Courtesy of @GatorZoneScott)
Herndon, from Ocala, said he grew up a huge Gators fan, but his family couldn’t afford to come to games. Herndon turned down scholarship offers from small schools out west, instead chasing his dream of wearing orange and blue.
“I always preach to younger kids to follow your dreams,” he said. “If I took a scholarship and went to a smaller school or something, I would be giving up on what I really wanted to do.”
But it wasn’t easy.
As a walk-on last season, the sophomore didn’t eat full meals sometimes because of the financial burden on his family.
His $20,000 scholarship now alleviates that problem.
No more Pop Tarts or Ramen.
“This is going to sound funny, but [the biggest perk] is food,” he said. “Now with the training table and all kinds of stuff. I might gain a few more pounds.”
Herndon said he wasn’t the only emotional wreack when Muschamp announced the honor. Running backs coach Brian White shed tears too.
“That just made my heart mel because you know the guys deserves it,” linebacker Neiron Ball said. “It just makes you feel good.”Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton