Normally Parade All-Americans are handed scholarships, guaranteed spots on the roster and possibly starting lineups at certain schools.
Brian Egan knows what that’s like and is at Mississippi State telling everybody that’s not the path he remembers fondly.
The walk-on, backup kicker has gone from being one of the nation’s best coming out of high school to hoping he can earn the kickoff duties for the 2011 season and says he prefers the hard work in a place he feels comfortable at.
“I had a little trouble out of high school to say the least,” Egan said. “I just had to face adversity and work my way back to where I need to be. I’m loving every minute of that now.”
Even at arguably the least noticed position on a football team, kicker, Egan had scholarship offers from top-ranked Division I-A programs to spend the next four years playing college football but chose a small, Football Championship Subdivision school in the middle of Illinois, a place he’d never been in his life, because simply they needed a kicker and they needed one immediately.
“With the addition of Brian to our signing class, we have been able to replace talent with talent in all three aspects of the game,” Western Illinois head coach Don Patterson said when Egan signed on Feb. 10, 2009.
Egan categorizes that decision to sign with a Leathernecks program as “one of the worst decisions of his life.” His opinion of the situation had nothing to do with the university located in Macomb, Ill., but more to do with him instantly feeling lost and out of place.
“The day I walked on campus I thought to myself ‘man, I got to get out of here,’” Egan said. “It’s my fault and blame myself. It’s just a fact though that I wasn’t mentally there from day one.”
His signing decision was curious at best by many due to him being the only one of the 58 players named to the 2009 PARADE Magazine All-America Football Team to commit to a Football Championship Subdivision school.
“Brian had a tough decision but he made the right choice,” Prattville High School head coach Jamey DuBose said when Egan signed. “He chose Western because it gives him an opportunity to kick early on.”
Egan was not only the top-rated high school kicker in the country by PARADE Magazine, but also the nation’s number one kicker on Scout.com, MaxPreps.com and Rivals.com.
The problem for freshman kickers is there's usually a more experienced guy in front of them that will force the new signee to sit and wait his turn.
“I wanted to play and play right away,” Egan said. “That was the wrong way to think about that now that I go back and think about it.”
The 2009 Alabama Player of the Year at his position set a state record for points in a single season by a kicker (116) and connected on 20-of-24 field goals, the second most in state history. His senior season included one field goal from 51 yards and another from a school-record 52 yards while his three-year varsity career ended with 31 field goals, 144 extra points and a school-record 244 points. Egan also made 56 of his 57 extra-point attempts and recorded 62 touchbacks in 2008. Kicking three field goals to help Prattville to its third consecutive state title in Alabama largest class (6A), the 6-foot, 205-pound left-footer became the first kicker in Alabama High School football history to be named most valuable player of the championship game.
"Of all our players who signed with college teams, Brian is the one who can start as a true freshman,” DuBose said.
Suddenly, Egan went from a guy with a special talent everybody wanted to a forgotten footnote that nobody could remember or had room for.
As a true freshman, Egan’s out-of-place attitude transferred to the football field as he connected on only 2-for-8 field goals in a 2009 season where the Leathernecks ended with a 1-10 record, the worst in the program’s history, and see its head coach forced to resign due to health concerns that eventually resulted in serious cancer treatments.
“I wasn’t focusing on the job I had to accomplish and didn’t take the right mental attitude going into the situation,” Egan said. “It showed early and often on the field.”
It was a low point for Egan as he was over 750 miles away from home and was struggling in the only reason he opted to go to school there in the first place.
“My objective at that point was to stay in school and make sure I made good grades because once I started to go bad on the field – I wanted out,” Egan said.
A 3.0 grade point average at WIU put Egan in a strong position to transfer wherever he wished from a qualifications standpoint and he had remembered that Mississippi State had recruited him initially during the final years of the Sylvester Croom head-coaching era so he decided to make the journey to Starkville to discuss the possibilities.
“I came down for the spring game last year and the coaches here told me they couldn’t offer a scholarship but if I came here and did fine academically in my ineligible transfer year then we could talk,” Egan said. “It was always a dream to play for a big-time SEC program and I’m doing that now.”
As he pushes senior Derek DePasquale at kicker, Egan hopes to earn the kickoff job that was left by graduating special teams performer Sean Brauchle and possibly be the first member of the 2011 Mississippi State football team to touch the football next fall.