Oakville grad a walk-on at Kansas State - KMOV.com

Oakville grad a walk-on at Kansas State

In a day and age where athletes are recruited for scholarships before high school, it's hard to believe a football player could go from a walk-on to starting linebacker at a Big 12 program -- in a year.

But it's possible.

Alex Hrebec was a member of the All-Conference team at Oakville High School in south St. Louis County before graduating in 2007.

In 2008 he's the starting inside linebacker for Kansas State, who lost to the Missouri Tigers in Columbia on Saturday.

Despite being one of the key players on Oakville's 9-1 squad of 2006, Hrebec (pronounced RE-beck) received no offers from any Division I schools.

Or any Division II.

Or any Division III.

"I didn't have an official visit anywhere," Hrebec said. "(I was) under the radar, I guess."

Hrebec believed he could play Division I football and thought Kansas State would provide him with the best opportunity to get on the field. He contacted the Wildcat coaching staff before graduating from Oakville.

"They basically said, 'If you want, you can," Hrebec said.

The linebacker was not invited to any camps at Kansas State in the summer before arriving for his freshman year. He spent that year on the scout team.

This summer, Hrebec stayed in Manhattan, Kan., and proved he belonged. He made the most of an opportunity to win a starting job and has 21 solo tackles and a sack for the Wildcats, who are 4-6 this season.

He says many of his friends from Oakville weren't sure he was making the right decision by walking on at Kansas State.

"They ask you what you're going to do you and say you're going to walk on at K-State. They just kind of give you the 'OK, good luck with that," Hrebec said.

Sean Kelly is a linebacker at McKendree University and was a teammate of Hrebec's at Oakville. Is he shocked to see Hrebec starting for the Wildcats? Yes and no.

"I'm surprised to see him starting this year, but not starting in general," Kelly said. "I'm surprised at how fast he's been able to do it."

But...

"The kid works his (butt) off," Kelly said.

Kansas State's head coach, Ron Prince, won't return next season, despite signing a contract extension this summer. Hrebec is sad to see the man who gave him an opportunity leave, but acknowledges there isn't much he can do.

"I can't control it. I'm just going to try to focus on these next two games. "(I'll) concentrate on that when the season's over," Hrebec said. "It's out of my hands."

No matter what happens to the program after this season, two things are certain: Alex Hrebec did play football for a Division I program -- which no one can ever take away from him -- and he will be working tirelessly all off-season to make sure he'll be back as starting linebacker for the Wildcats in 2009.

"I always felt I could play at this level," Hrebec said. "It's nice to prove you can do it."

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