They are an inspirational group for those who begin their college football career at the bottom of the depth chart. A successful walk-on provides hope for even the deepest of reserves.

Surely that is the case at Temple, where five former walk-ons have earned scholarships over the last two years.

Some received the news simply by a phone call, others had a more public setting in receiving the information.

All five were recruited by former head coach Matt Rhule, now at Baylor, and each was awarded the scholarship by second-year head coach Geoff Collins.

Then again, few coaches have the appreciation of what walk-ons go through that  Collins does. He was once one himself.

Collins was a walk-on during his first year at Western Carolina and was  put on scholarship after that. He started for three years,  playing mainly linebacker.

"I was a walk-on and after my first year I got put on scholarship and that was a special moment for me," Collins said in a recent interview. "So I truly understand the hard work these guys go through."

Even with Rhule, Temple had a history of walk-ons earning scholarships. Among the more prominent was Haason Reddick, who eventually earned a scholarship, and became a first-round draft choice (13th overall) in 2017 by the Arizona Cardinals.

Few walk-ons rise to the prominence of Reddick, but the current five at Temple all needed perseverance.  Each is a key contributor to an Owls team that will open its season Sept. 1 at Lincoln Financial Field against Villanova.

Here is the story on each.

Aaron Boumerhi, 6-0, 200, junior placekicker.

Boumerhi entered the 2016 season not expecting to play.  But when kicker Austin Jones suffered a torn ACL in the sixth game of the season at Memphis, he not only became the regular but earned second-team all-conference honors, making 15 of 17 field goal attempts.

After that season Collins was named head coach, and one of his first phone calls was to Boumerhi to offer him a scholarship. At the time, Collins was wrapping things up as defensive coordinator at  Florida.

"I called him from my home in Gainesville,  Fla.,  and that was the first scholarship I offered to a walk-on," Collins said.

Collins and Boumerhi didn't really know each other at that point.

"Just stepping in and trusting me and my ability shows what kind of coach and person he is," Boumerhi said.

Vincent Picozzi, 6-4, 295,  redshirt sophomore OL.

A product of Lansdale Catholic, Picozzi redshirted in 2016 and,  like Boumerhi, didn't really know Collins well before being offered a scholarship in January 2017.

"I came into his office and sat down and [Collins] had the papers there and it was such a surreal moment," said Picozzi, who started six games last season and is expected to be a starting guard this year.  "To me, it was a huge leap of faith on his part and I am so grateful it happened."

Todd Jones, 6-0, 220, graduate student, LB.

A  St. Joseph's Prep graduate, Jones received his scholarship offer this past January.

Last season was the first year he received extensive action, appearing in 10 games and making three starts.

Jones found out about his scholarship during a team meeting after an offseason workout.

"The team knew about it," he recalled. "The next thing you knew it was on a screen that I had earned a scholarship. It felt really good and the hard work and staying consistent with everything really paid off."

Collins said it was a memorable moment.

"That was in a team meeting and the place went absolutely nuts," Collins said. "That went viral on ESPN."

Chris Myarick, 6-4, 250, graduate student, TE.

Myarick, a Cheltenham product, also had an elaborate scholarship announcement. It was at halftime during the spring football game in 2017. He was first named the team's most valuable walk-on, and then Collins announced the scholarship,  and Myarick was mobbed by his teammates.

"I felt as if I belonged here and could hang with the scholarship guys as a walk-on," Myarick said. "That was always my goal, to push and earn a scholarship here."

Last season Myarick appeared in 12 games, making nine starts. He has appeared in 30 career games.

Temple LB Todd Jones (40) pursues fellow former walk-on and RB Rob Ritrovato during a training camp practice.
Marc Narducci
Temple LB Todd Jones (40) pursues fellow former walk-on and RB Rob Ritrovato during a training camp practice.

Rob "Nitro" Ritrovato, 5-11, 240, redshirt senior,  RB.

The graduate of West Chester East began his Temple career at linebacker but was a key reserve running back  and special-teams standout last season.

He received his scholarship this past October as Temple was preparing for its bye week. The announcement came during a team meeting.

Collins had Ritrovato's mother, Susan Silvestri, call into running backs coach Tony Lucas and didn't tell her why. So mother and son were surprised when Collins announced it to the entire team.

"I had no idea what to say," Silvestri recalled. "There were no words to express my gratitude to the coaches."

Ritrovato, who has appeared in 31 career games, including all 13 last year, had another recent milestone when he earned a single-digit jersey number from Temple. They are  awarded to players for their toughness and dedication.

"It felt so good getting the scholarship for me and my family," Ritrovato said. "Getting the single digit is up there if not more than getting put on scholarship."