SEATTLE >> Christian Galvan had other choices.
So did Kasen Kinchen, Logan Bruce-Jones, Lanakila Pei and Isaiah Strong.
All five — considered three-star prospects in the 2020 class by 247Sports — were offered full scholarships to play college football for free. All five could have pursued more direct paths to playing time. And all five, in the end, opted to walk on at Washington.
Needless to say, that’s an expensive decision. Budgeting tuition, housing, food, books/course supplies, transportation and miscellaneous expenses, it cost an estimated $27,638 for an in-state resident and $53,018 for an out-of-state resident to attend UW for the 2018-19 academic year — according to the university’s website. Over four years, that bill for an in-state resident exceeds $110,000. It’s also $110,000 more than Galvan and Co. would have owed to attend college someplace else.
But the appeal, on the other side, isn’t difficult to digest. Galvan — a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back at Bothell (Wash.) High School — grew up attending UW football games. His dream was to play in the Pac-12, either at Washington or Stanford. Not so long ago, he even shared a backfield with current Husky quarterback and former Bothell standout Jacob Sirmon.
He received offers to Drake, Columbia, Georgetown and San Diego. On the weekend of Jan. 24, he took an official visit to Drake and “absolutely loved it.” He was admittedly close to committing.
But he still had one last visit left.
“I couldn’t tell you if there was one specific thing that sold me on UW, but just being on campus and being surrounded by UW football, in my heart it felt like I had no other choice,” Galvan told The Times. “It really did feel like home. It always has been home.”
That’s the case — the overwhelming constant — for the Huskies’ handful of 2020 three-star walk-ons. Kinchen — a 5-foot-11, 165-pound corner at Lake Stevens (Wash.) High School, the alma mater of Jacob Eason — could have played on scholarship at Cal, but walked on at Washington anyway. He also earned offers from Air Force, Utah State, Hawaii, Eastern Washington and more.
“He had Pac-12 offers,” 247Sports national editor Brandon Huffman said of Kinchen. “He had several Big Sky and Mountain West schools that really liked him, and he bet on himself. He’s been a very good nickel the last couple years, playing for Lake Stevens. He can play receiver. He was just kind of a plug-and-play type guy. He’s been a top-15 player in the state for the past two years. I think he plays (at UW). There’s a lot of Myles Bryant to his game.”
Added Kinchen: “It was definitely a hard decision, giving up a full-ride scholarship. But at the end of the day, I just wanted to be a Dawg.”
So did his high-school teammate — 6-5, 300-pound Lake Stevens offensive lineman Logan Bruce-Jones. He earned offers from Air Force, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Georgetown. But Bruce-Jones’ father, Keith Bruce, was once a saxophone player in the UW marching band. Bruce-Jones said on Tuesday that “I’ve been a Husky fan my whole life. When I was on my official (visit), it just felt like home. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I had to take it.”
Likewise, Pei — a 6-0, 180-pound safety at ‘Iolani School — received a scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii after he made eight tackles with two interceptions, en route to earning defensive MVP honors, at the Polynesian Bowl last month. But both of his parents attended Washington, and he decided to walk on anyway. And Strong — a three-star safety, and the son of longtime Seahawks fullback Mack Strong — spent much of his childhood in Seattle. Offers to Air Force, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana State and San Diego ultimately couldn’t compete with UW.
Of course, these recruits aren’t signing on to be four-year afterthoughts, either. Local allegiances aren’t everything. They’re coming, in large part, because they expect to compete — because this staff continues to prove it can develop overlooked prospects into Pac-12 starters.
“It just shows what the strength of the program has been for the last six, seven years: player development,” Huffman said. “Everybody looks at Rudy Ruettiger as the typical walk-on. They look at the undersized, unathletic guy who just works hard, when the reality is that these guys are still really good football players. But now they have the benefit of being developed by a tremendous coaching staff that has a tremendous history and track record of developing (players). And it’s the fact that they don’t just have the occasional (successful) walk-on. It’s Myles Bryant starting for three years. It’s Ryan Bowman starting for a couple years. It’s multiple walk-ons not just getting on the kickoff team but starting and being major contributors.
“I think that helps, because if you’re Kasen Kinchen, if you’re Logan Bruce-Jones, there’s a history of recent walk-ons spurning offers to not just be on the roster, but they’re playing and they’re playing significantly. So that is an easy product to sell, when not only are these guys playing, they’re being developed into potential draft picks.”
Let’s briefly go down the list.
— Defensive back Myles Bryant, who walked on at Washington in 2016, was named to the All-Pac-12 first team last season. He started 38 games and finished with 191 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and three forced fumbles in a productive college career.
— Senior outside linebacker Ryan Bowman has made 17 starts with 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in the last three seasons. He was named to the All-Pac-12 second team following a 2019 campaign that included 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.
— Inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio broke out as a redshirt freshman in 2019, earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors in November and starting the Huskies’ final three games.
— Senior Josiah Bronson started 11 of 13 games along the defensive line.
— And kicker Peyton Henry won a starting job for the second consecutive season, converting 19 of 21 field goals and all 49 extra points to take home All-Pac-12 second-team honors last fall.
All were walk-ons who earned scholarships — and a whole lot more.
And all are examples for Washington’s next crop of sleepers and overachievers.
“No matter where you go, as a walk-on, you’re going to fight an uphill battle throughout your career,” Galvan said. “I’ve never had a problem with having to start from the bottom and work my way up. I’m not the biggest player, so there’s been a lot of times where I’ve been counted out. So I have nothing wrong with having to earn everything.
“And to see that other players have done that before me, and even local players that grew up in Washington and got that preferred walk-on to Washington and took advantage of it and ended up flourishing and successful, that was key in this decision for sure, because I know that their coaches in that program are not going to look at me as a walk-on. They’re going to look at me as somebody on the team. Whatever I do, whatever I earn, I’m going to be rewarded for that. To know that I can do the same thing and make a name for myself, it’s something I’m ready to pursue.”
Galvan, to be sure, is not alone in that assertion. In the 2019 class, three-star Bellevue (Wash.) linebacker Drew Fowler turned down Pac-12 offers from Utah and UCLA to walk on at Washington. O’Dea three-star teammates Mishael Powell and Ruperake Fuavai landed at an identical destination.
Now, a year later, they’re passing along what they’ve learned.
“Drew Fowler was a big help in this recruiting process,” Galvan said. “I have to give him credit for a lot of the guidance and advice he’s given me, because he said it’s going to be an uphill battle all four years for him. But he said there’s no doubt it was the place for him. It was everything he ever wanted in football. It’s everything he ever wanted in school.
“So, to hear that and know that Drew is someone like me who has similar aspirations, that definitely helps me a lot.”
But ultimately, Galvan had to make his own decision. On Super Bowl Sunday, less than 24 hours after his UW visit, the Bothell running back turned off his phone, sat in his room and contemplated his future … by considering his past.
“Even if I’m balling out at another school, I didn’t want to have that thought in my head, ‘I could be doing this at UW,’” Galvan said. “I didn’t want to have any type of regret. I knew if my 7-year-old self was looking at me now, making this decision, where he’d want me to go.”
That’s just it: as long as UW develops walk-ons into draft picks, the cycle will be somewhat self-sustaining. Sometime in the next few seasons, a 7-year-old boy from Bothell or Lake Stevens or Seattle will watch Galvan — or Kinchen, or Bruce-Jones, or Pei, or Strong — excel inside Husky Stadium. Draped in purple and gold, he’ll make a silent decision.
In his heart, at least, he’ll have no other choice.