UMass freshman Joe Colton earns football scholarship

Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Joe Colton saw his phone vibrating in kinesiology class Tuesday, but couldn’t answer it.

When the University of Massachusetts true freshman walk-on safety checked his voice mail, coach Charley Molnar was imploring him to call back. Three return calls went unanswered as Molnar was recruiting in New Jersey.

“I thought I was in trouble,” Colton said.

So when Molnar showed up on Colton’s caller ID during his biodiversity class later in the morning, Colton excused himself and stepped into the hall.

Molnar delivered a message Colton had been hoping for since he decided to join the Minutemen as a walk-on less than a year ago.

“He said, ‘We want to offer you a scholarship for next year,’” Colton said. “I said, ‘Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for believing in me.’ I was trying not to yell and scream.”

Molnar praised Colton in an email:

“Today, I’m proud to announce that we have awarded Joey Colton a full athletic scholarship. Joe truly represents ‘The Minuteman Way’. He is a relentless, tough, competitor who embodies the way we play football at UMass. He’s also an excellent student and a tremendous leader. I believe he will be a source of pride for our football program and university as we enter into an exciting future.”

Speculation on Colton’s scholarship situation began early when Colton quickly became a rare contributor as a true freshman walk-on. He appeared in 11 games and started twice. He made 49 tackles and his one interception set up a key touchdown in the Minutemen’s win over Akron.

Molnar told Colton when he recruited him that if he played 20 snaps a game and ‘was a factor’ that he could earn a scholarship.

“Once the Akron game came and I made a bunch of plays, I think maybe Coach realized Joe is a factor now,” Colton said.

Among athletes, a scholarship is a status symbol. But for Colton it was more than that. His father was a mechanic at a power plant when he was laid off in 2004. He has been working intermittently since, while his mother has split time between three jobs. They’ve managed to put Colton and his sister Nicole through college.

“It’s been tough for my family because my sister also goes to UMass and they have to pay for her college,” Colton said. “Now that they don’t have to pay a big chunk of change, it’s going to make a lot of things better around the house. I could have went to some D-2 schools, but my parents were willing to pay for a year to give me a shot. They believed I could play Division I. Getting a scholarship is a good ending for everyone.”

Shortly after he got off the phone with Molnar, he called his father, who played at UMass in the 1970s.

“I had to call my dad because he’s been through the good times and rough times with me,” Colton said. “He was just so proud of me.”

Colton said earning the scholarship won’t dull his work ethic.

“I feel like when I go out there from now on that I have to prove I’m worthy of this scholarship. I don’t want to let my team down,” said Colton, who hoped to be an inspiration to future walk-ons. “Any kid that’s anything like me that really believes in himself and really believes he can do it, he should walk on and give it a try. If you do it, it’s a really special feeling.”

ALL CONFERENCE — Senior linebacker Perry McIntyre was named to the Mid-American Conference’s first team after registering 132 tackles (second best in the MAC) and three sacks.

Senior safety Darren Thellen was named to the second team. He had 79 tackles and three interceptions.

Junior Colter Johnson, who led the MAC in punting with a 43.6 average, was on the third team despite being almost a yard better than first-teamer Jay Karutz of Eastern Michigan.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.