Aug. 9, 2011
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Travis McClain is looking forward to eventually sharing with his children and even his grandchildren about playing for Baylor's first bowl team in 16 years.
Now he's got something else to share with them. Along with tight end Bryan Swindoll and linebacker Reggie Rice, McClain is one of three senior walk-on football players who have had their patience rewarded with scholarships.
"It was definitely a goal coming in - getting on the team, setting small goals," said McClain, a 6-foot, 190-pound wide receiver from Weatherford, Texas, who played in 10 games during the Bears' run to the Texas Bowl last season. "(I wanted to) travel, play more and more then get put on scholarship So it was definitely a good feeling whenever I got the good news. (My parents) got a little bit of a raise for the year, so they were definitely happy about that."
Of the trio, McClain has seen the most game action. After redshirting in 2007, he got into two games the next year, three as a sophomore and then 10 of 13 last year.
"It's not where I would want it to be," McClain said of his playing time, "but positive movement is positive movement. I'm just trying to keep that momentum going into my last year. Every year since my freshman year, it's been, `Let's be a bowl-eligible football team.' To be a part of the team that did it and actually be a contributing part, it was huge. It's something I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about the day that I was part of the Baylor football team that made that turn."
That was Rice's goal when he transferred to Baylor from New Mexico Military Institute. After redshirting in '09, the 5-11, 220-pound linebacker from Houston, Texas, played in seven games last season as a reserve linebacker and key contributor on special teams.
"It was a great experience. I had never been a part of anything like that. And now that I've got a part of it, I'm ready to keep it coming," said Rice, who was credited with two tackles.
His goal this season is to work his way back onto the special teams and "helping my team get to another bowl game."
"It was more than a scholarship," Rice said of going through the last two seasons without a scholarship. "Even before the scholarship, I always wanted to help my team and get to a bowl game. The scholarship just helps me with my family and everything. It's a blessing. I've been fighting for three years, trying to get on it. And now that I've got it, I'm going to try to make the best of it and help my team get to another bowl game."
Unlike McClain and Rice, Swindoll had no intentions of playing football when he came to Baylor four years ago from Miami, Fla., to study philosophy and economics.
"I didn't come to Baylor to join the team, to be honest," said Swindoll, a 6-3, 230-pound tight end. "I was coming here more for the academics and just the school. That first week, I heard about football tryouts. And it seemed like a lot of work, not something I would be interested in doing. I had been doing sports my whole life. But my dad called and said, `You know, I think it would be a good idea.'''
Called "Sunshine" by the coaches because of his long golden locks and resemblance to the quarterback in the movie, "Remember the Titans," Swindoll said he prayed about it before coming out for the tryouts before Guy Morriss' final season as head coach.
"I just said, `God, if you want me to be a part of this team, then make it happen. And if not, don't worry about it. I'll enjoy my hammock,''' Swindoll said. "But I made the team, and I'm thankful for that. It's been a good experience, I've been blessed."
While he wishes he could see more playing time, Swindoll said he "always felt that my purpose here was different."
"God was calling me to be a part of this team for different reasons," he said. "I've gotten to be a part of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), I've gotten to go to Kenya three times now (for mission trips). So I think I've been fulfilling God's purpose for me being on this team."
Like McClain and Rice, Swindoll was excited to be part of Baylor's first bowl team in 16 years, but "the way we finished out the season left such a bad taste that myself and everyone else is just hungry to make sure that never happens again."
All three players are on pace to graduate in May - Swindoll as a double major in philosophy and economics, McClain in business management and Rice with a general studies degree.
But first things first, with their scholarships now in hand, they'd like to go out with another bowl game.
"We're happy with the progress we've made," Swindoll said, "but we're definitely not satisfied with where we are. We want to keep going."