This offseason, four members of the Texas Tech football team were granted the gift of having their books and tuition paid for by the university.
What is unique about these players is that each one of them walked on to the team to begin their college football careers.
The players receiving scholarships are transfer redshirt sophomore quarterback Nic Shimonek, sophomore defensive end Talor Nunez, sophomore wide receiver Zach Austin and junior fullback Tyler Scalzi.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and his coaching staff informed the recipients of their rewards during the summer and even had some fun when telling Nunez he was being placed on scholarship.
Nunez said he discovered he was being put on scholarship after practice one day when Kingsbury was discussing the Summer II session grades, and Nunez was the top student on the defensive line.
“It was a normal day and we were going over grades because Kliff is huge on academics, and he highlighted my name and then showed a good play that I made in practice,” Nunez said. “He was saying good things about me and that just made me happy, but when he was walking out he turned around at the door and said, ‘Oh and by the way, you’re on scholarship.’”
Nunez got to Tech by way of Midland, where he grew up and played football for the Midland Lee Rebels, he said.
He was the quarterback for the Rebels, he said, and came to the Red Raiders planning on being utilized at the safety position.
Once he got to his first spring camp, Nunez said, the coaches told him to gain one pound every week to help him hit a mark of 240 pounds.
When he reached his designated weight goal, he was put on the defensive line and has played the position ever since, he said.
Nunez improved so much that co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Smith put him as the backup to senior defensive lineman Branden Jackson, Smith said.
“I call him my technician,” Smith said. “He does exactly what I tell him to do and he doesn’t go outlaw and he’s a kid that I can rely on.”
Jackson, who will be starting ahead of Nunez on the defensive line, said Nunez’s drive has been inspirational to the rest of the defensive line, and he is really excited about what they can do this season.
“His work ethic is second to none,” Jackson said. “I can’t wait to get him out there and watch him compete. A lot of people don’t know, (but) everyone on our defensive line is on scholarship now. The defensive line, as tough as we are and as tough as we look, we shed tears when our brothers were awarded those.”
Nunez will take the field as an athlete on scholarship for the first time this weekend when Tech kicks off the season against Sam Houston State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.