But somewhere high over the East Coast last Saturday during UCF’s 2 ½ hour flight home from Buffalo, UCF reserve running back Ronnie Weaver allowed himself a moment to reflect personally on the mountain that he had climbed. Weaver, the former unwanted walk-on from tiny Wabasso, Fla., scored two second-half touchdowns in UCF’s 24-10 victory and he wanted to make sure he savored the moment.
Deep in thought to himself, Weaver thought about all the doubters that told him he’d never make it playing college football. He thought about all of the days when he was a no-named walk-on trying to catch the coach’s eyes. Scoring two critical touchdowns in a game is almost unheard of from a player with Weaver’s background, and he was determined to take what little time he had to look back on his accomplishment.
“The next work week starts real soon when we get back, so there’s not too much time to enjoy it. But I just felt so grateful and thankful,” Weaver admitted. “I did take some (satisfaction), but I wanted to wait until I saw the film because things normally aren’t as bad or good as they look in person. But deep down, I was grateful and happy about getting my first multi-touchdown game.”
Weaver, a 6-foot, 209-pound junior, has helped soften the blow of losing standout tailback Brynn Harvey to a knee injury in the spring. When Jonathan Davis and Brendan Kelly have been ineffective, Weaver has provided a change-of-pace spark for the 2-1 Knights, who face 3-0 Kansas State on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Manhattan, Kan. He ran for 49 yards last week with a 16-yard burst and added the scoring runs from 14 yards and 1 yard. And so far this season, he’s averaging 5.8 yards a carry because of his gritty, tough running.
“I think Ronnie went in and hit the holes like you are supposed to hit them,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said. “He wasn’t looking to create space. He was creating it by doing it himself.”
Weaver is one of O’Leary’s favorite players because of his workmanlike attitude and willingness to put the team first. O’Leary also likes how Weaver worked on scout teams and special teams to earn a spot on the team and ultimately a scholarship.
“I was so happy for his mom (Patricia Bradley-Stinson) because she was at the (Buffalo) game and she was just ecstatic waiting by the busses,” O’Leary said. “He’s a kid who came in as a walk-on and worked hard and really helped us out by working on special teams. I’m going to try and reward kids who work hard and stick around the program if I have scholarships to give. I think it’s good for morale when some of the walk-ons have a chance to earn a scholarship. He’s done a good job for us.”
Weaver spent most of his time at Vero Beach High School as a defensive back, but switched to tailback as a senior in high school. Despite running for 1,110 yards and 12 TDs as a senior there was little interest from colleges in Florida. He was determined to stay close to home and walked on at UCF. And he stuck it out with the Knights even though there were those who doubted that he’s ever see any meaningful playing time at UCF.
“I don’t know how to explain it but I just feel like I was led here. I don’t question how things happen, but I’m grateful how things turned out,” he said. “Through God’s grace, He led me here with the help of my mother.
“I live in a small town in Wabasso, and not many people from there do great things,” Weaver continued. “But I had an inspiration from people back home pushing me forward and telling me that I can do great things. And there was the motivation from doubters telling me that I’d never be anything. Every time I go back home now I try to encourage the younger people there that you can get out and you can make it out here. When adversity hits, you just have to push harder.”
Upon arriving on campus, Weaver caught the eye of coaches with his tough, hard-nosed style. Special teams came natural to him because of his time as a hard-hitting safety in high school, while his running from the tailback slot wasn’t spectacular, but efficient.
“I had the mindset that I had to make an impact and do something great when I got here,” he said. “I had to do what I could to get noticed. When the coach stops coaching you, then you have something to worry about. But when they are yelling at you, it shows they actually care. It was a struggle when I first got here and I had to learn quickly behind great backs like Kevin Smith. But I learned a lot.”
Weaver, a health services administration major, regularly practices Yoga to help with his flexibility and breathing. He said the exercises have made him a better back and he’s tried to recruit other teammates to do the stretching and breathing exercises with him before games.
He is confident that if the Knights can run the ball on Saturday and play keep away from Kansas State’s star tailback, Daniel Thomas, that UCF can pull off the road upset.
“When we’re playing UCF football, being physical and get things rolling out there, we can be a really hard team to defend,” he said.
Source: John Denton’s Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at [email protected]