Weatherford Sacrifices for His 'Papers'
By Mike DeVine
Originally published Sept. 15, 2007 in the Ohio game programThe Virginia Tech football program has a well-documented tradition of walk-on success at a variety of positions, but nowhere on the field has more of a contribution been made by non-scholarship players than at fullback. Former Hokies Jarrett Ferguson (1997-2001) and Jesse Allen (2002-2006) began as walk-ons and eventually earned scholarships and starting spots. So what is it about the fullback position that lends itself to walk-on success? "Coming in as a walk-on, you have to work harder than everyone else because most of these guys are scholarship players," Ferguson said. "You also have to work hard to play fullback, so the two go hand-in-hand. You lift in the weight room, trying to get what we like to call 'papers,' because there's always someone else trying to take your spot and get yards and touchdowns on the field." Senior Carlton Weatherford is the latest in the line of Hokie walk-on fullbacks to earn a scholarship by working hard in the weight room. He transformed from a lightly recruited 198-pound walk-on into a 230-pound starting fullback. "Things are always the same in the weight room," Weatherford said. "Two hundred pounds is always going to be 200 pounds. Statistics may change and different schools may recruit you, but the weights are always going to be the same." In his hometown of Danville, Va., he was inspired at an early age to work hard and achieve his goal of playing at Virginia Tech. "When I was in the eighth grade, I noticed a lot of the older players were in the weight room," Weatherford said. "I always wanted to work hard in there, too, because I wanted to be the best that I could be. That's hung with me throughout my career." His work ethic in the weight room translated into success on the field at Tunstall High School. He starred as a tailback and rushed for nearly 3,000 career yards and received attention from smaller schools, but there was really only one option for college. "My dad is a huge Tech fan, and he went to school here, so I used to watch the football games with him all the time," Weatherford said. "I always wanted to be a Hokie, growing up while watching guys like Jarrett." "When Carlton first walked on, I was a G.A. in the strength and conditioning program, and he told me he watched me play all the time," Ferguson said. "He saw what I did, because I wasn't a very big fullback, and uses it on the field when he plays. I was honored when he told me that." Weatherford has adapted very well to the 'fullback mentality' forged by his predecessors. "Fullbacks are a different breed," he said. "You have to be very hard-nosed and not mind contact. It's not a very glorified position. It's nice getting a pass thrown to you every once in a while, or a carry, but most of the time I'm just rooting out linebackers for the running backs." Oftentimes, Weatherford is overshadowed by teammates in the starting backfield, but he is perfectly happy as long as the Hokies are winning. "I feel really proud to be associated with those guys," he said. "My job is to block for Branden Ore and protect Sean Glennon. Those guys get the media attention, but I will do anything I can to help this team be successful." Perhaps the most difficult obstacle Weatherford faced during his career at Tech did not have anything to do with weights or yards. "The biggest sacrifice I had to make was during my freshman year when I blew my knee out," Weatherford said. "We were doing the middle drill during practice for the Insight.com Bowl and a lineman fell on my knee. The trainers said it was one of the worst knee injuries they've seen at Tech. The doctors told me I'd be out for at least six months and probably wouldn't be back to my old self for a year." Through hours of rehab, Weatherford worked his way back to his 'old self' and has increased his playing time in each of the last three seasons. He even caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in last season's home opener against Northeastern. "When I look back, I believe God pulled me through because if I didn't have Him in my corner, I don't think I could have come back." This season, the Hokies have an incentive far more important than scholarship money or playing time. "I hope we can come out and make the Hokie Nation proud, especially since everything that happened on April 16th," Weatherford said. "I feel like we should go out and play for all of our fallen classmates who can't come to the games anymore. We want to work hard for them because a lot of people are going to be looking at us for an escape."