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Put Me In, Coach
Austin Murphy
November 25, 1991
Playing time is the dream of the Division I walk-on. Bench time is the reality
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November 25, 1991

Put Me In, Coach

Playing time is the dream of the Division I walk-on. Bench time is the reality

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Walk-ons get minute(s), IV: In January, with eight minutes remaining in the first half of a game against Rice, Davis sent Martin in. The Aggies were trailing 27-15 and bound for their seventh straight Southwest Conference loss. The instant Martin checked in, the Owls' student section began to chant, "Midget! Midget!" Martin's adept passing and ball handling silenced them—for 30 seconds. Then Martin threw an ill-advised crosscourt pass that sailed into the Autry Court balcony. The Owls' chant was resumed with gusto.

After the loss, Martin was asked if the Rice fans had wounded his feelings. He flashed a small smile. "The Fun Bunch encourages clever abuse," he said, "even if it is at our expense."

Then he excused himself. Radar needed a hand loading the bus.

Meanwhile, during practice at Creighton in Omaha, Moser, the former walk-on who's now a graduate-assistant coach, was doing a different sort of heavy work. He stood under the basket wielding a padded dummy with which he clobbered players as they came in for layups. Moser grinned until forward Bob Harstad inadvertently kneed him where a man least wants to be kneed. Practice was delayed for as long as it took Moser to crawl off the court.

It was appropriate for Moser to be stuck with this kind of dirty work. A high school all-star from Naperville, Ill., in 1986 he turned down a full ride at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point to take his chances under coach Tony Barone at Creighton. "I was told I would be treated equally," said Moser, "and that's all I asked." Moser made the team. But when practice jerseys arrived, Moser's was the only one without a name on it, an oversight that Moser jokingly mentioned to assistant coach Dick Fick.

Mistake. Weeks later, out of the blue, Barone got in Moser's face to explain the custom of paying dues. "I hear you're unhappy with your practice jersey!" shouted the 5'10", 230-pound Barone, who can be as intimidating as he is stout. "Are you happy to be here? Are you happy to be playing Division I ball? Are you happy to have a jersey?" The outburst typified coaches' expectations of walk-ons: Not only will you swallow elbows and humble pie, you will be grateful for the chance.

Two thirds of the way into the following season, Moser still hadn't seen appreciable playing time. That's when Barone, disgusted by his team's performance in a loss to Notre Dame, announced that the five guys who hustled the most in the following week's practices would start the next game, against Illinois State. Moser ended up starting in that game—and every other game for the rest of his college career.

After Moser's breakthrough season Barone sought him out in the weight room one spring afternoon. Barone was on the warpath. "Follow me," he growled at Moser, whom he led back to the dressing room. Some papers had been laid out in Moser's locker. "Sign these," the coach ordered gruffly, handing Moser a pen. Moser signed—and was on scholarship.

Four years later, there was Moser, waffling the Bluejays with a dummy. He belted 6'10" senior center Chad Gallagher, forcing Gallagher to miss and Fick to yell, "Make the shot, Chad—for chrissakes, it's only a dummy!"

Moser then clobbered freshman guard Dennis Halligan in a collision of walk-ons past and present. Halligan missed his shot, too, but Fick didn't waste his breath. Practice was an hour old, but Halligan's hair remained fluffy and dry: As the 13th man on a 13-man team, he often ended up watching the drills. The gym was bisected by a navy blue partition, on the other side of which Halligan's sister, junior forward Kathy, was sprinting the length of the floor like a UNLV Runnin' Rebel. Kathy, who attends Creighton on a basketball scholarship, should break the Lady Jays' career-scoring record later this season.

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