By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Tyler Stovall says his athletic career has been a dream.
He was drafted by his favorite baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, in 2008 and played in their minor league system. He's been with his favorite football team, the Auburn Tigers, since 2013 and, this weekend, received an emotional bonus.
The holder was one of seven Auburn walk-ons who received a scholarship Friday night.
"It means the world to me," Stovall said.
Stovall was a second-round pick of the Braves. Part of his deal? The Braves would pay his college tuition for eight semesters. This fall, Auburn is paying his way.
Other walk-ons who received scholarships were linebacker Greg Hall, receiver Logan Rice, defensive back Michael Sherwood, linebacker John Shockley, fullback Keenen Sweeny and defensive tackle Tyler Carter.
"It's just a real special feeling from a head coaching standpoint," said coach Gus Malzahn. "I was a walk-on in this league and I know how special that is. Those guys really earned that and it was a real special thing."
Stovall called it "a really special moment" when the seven learned they had earned scholarship.
"That's what I feel football is all about, and that's what I feel like Coach Malzahn is all about. He's a great guy. I really admire the man. Just to be able to do that and make a kid's life is a really special. I really look up to him and really appreciate how he does that. He could have given that to anywhere else, but he chose to give that some walk-ons he thought deserved it. I'm glad to see he did that."
Stovall didn't just play baseball. He was an all-state punter and a productive quarterback at Hokes Bluff. His main job at Auburn is to be Daniel Carlson's holder on field goals and extra points.
"I try to tell people I know it's a small position, or a small part of football, but in my mind it is an important role, it is something huge," Stovall said. "I don't take that lightly. I take more responsibility in that than anything I've ever done because I understand for Daniel to do well, I've got to do my job. I take it serious. He and I work as a team. I'm there, and if he misses a kick, it's not his fault. I just take just as much responsibility."
Stovall says he's still living the dream.
"I'm truly blessed. I grew up a Braves fan and got to play for the Atlanta Braves. I grew up an Auburn Tigers fan, and now I'm here playing at Auburn. It's kind of surreal because I didn't think I'd have this opportunity," he said. "Twenty-six years old, who gets that opportunity? I'm just really thankful for Coach Malzahn and Coach Fountain, who gave me the opportunity to come to Auburn.
"The reason I do what I do now is I want to encourage younger people - if you have a dream, go accomplish that dream. You can do it.' That's kind of my thing here."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) August 14, 2016
'Real solid day,' says Gus Malzahn of Auburn scrimmage. And it was special to give seven walk-ons scholarships, too. pic.twitter.com/j5OifesDdy
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) August 13, 2016
— Keenan Sweeney (@Keenan_Sweeney) August 13, 2016