PWO part of ULM plan
Preferred Warhawk Opportunity, while not the official name of Head Coach Terry Bowden’s plan to revitalize the preferred walk-on program at ULM, it’s definitely one that’s fitting. Preferred walk-ons, or PWO for short, allow for the program to invite a number of players to join the program without the benefit of any official financial aid from the school.
Many programs throughout the NCAA landscape have leveraged PWOs to supplement their scholarship players for practice and depth including the likes of Clay Matthews (USC), Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech and Oklahoma), and JJ Watt (Wisconsin).
“We really like to call them guaranteed walk-ons, and they are important for us to get,” Bowden said. “It really helps with depth and scout teaming and gives us more options for when we have guys that are unavailable due to Covid or anything else. Players just want a chance and with the NCAA not setting limits currently, we just need to take advantage of this and give them a chance.”
One notable walk-on in recent years for the Warahwks was receiver Brent Leonard. Leonard, a 6’2” receiver from Keller, Texas drew just interest from New Mexico and New Mexico State before then ULM assistant Luke Wells reached out.
“I knew that I wanted to play D1 football, and wanted to be somewhat close to home,” Leonard said. “Coach Wells came to me and sold me on the program and also on myself. He told me to come to campus, but tail and good things would happen; and they did. I had to wait a full year before my position coach, Marty Humphries told me that Coach (Charlie) Weatherbie wanted to talk with me in his office. That moment of being told that I was getting a full ride, there was really nothing better and something that I’ll always remember.”
Leonard was a key component to the 2012 Warhawk season that saw the programs first FBS winning season and bowl berth. His career totals rank among the top-ten in Sun Belt Conference history for receptions in a season (104), receptions in a game (14), touchdowns in a season (10), and career receptions (209).
“Our job right now in the short term is to look for guys that are one, two, or three star that just want that opportunity,” Bowden said. “We are making that connection with coaches to look for guys that fell through the cracks and get them on board and on campus. With the pell grants and TOPS (Taylor Opportunity Program for Students) we can just about cover the financial aspects for these guys; making them just about a scholarship player.”