When Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads addressed the crowd at the Cyclone Fan Fest on Sunday inside Hilton Coliseum, he opened by talking about his favorite time of the year.
It's not the forthcoming season opener, as Drake Ferch anticipated. It's rewarding walk-ons with scholarships, and the 2010 West Marshall High School graduate was one of them.
Ferch and junior tight end Ben Boesen were named by Rhoads on Sunday as scholarship recipients, rewarding "a pair of former walk-ons for their hard work and service," according to an Iowa State release.
Ferch, a redshirt senior who tranferred in from Iowa Western Community College, has climbed to the top of the defensive depth chart at strong-side linebacker in Iowa State's nickel package and will see regular time on the field this season.
That was all he ever really wanted, but the scholarship is a nice bonus.
"I didn't even know if there were any open (scholarships)," Ferch said Sunday night. "This was going to be my last year regardless. Being able to see the field on defense was going to be reward enough."
After redshirting in 2012 after two all-Midwest Football Conference campaigns as a defensive back in Council Bluffs, Ferch saw limited action as a third-string safety and on special teams last fall during Iowa State's 3-9 season. He totaled eight tackles and one pass breakup during the Cyclones' spring game.
Getting an opportunity to have more of an impact on this fall's final record is all Ferch ever wanted. And Coach Rhoads' announcement certainly elevated the anticipation level.
"I kind of just shocked me, but at the same time I was happy and everyone seemed to be OK with it," Ferch said. "I've earned that scholarship I guess.
"I called my dad first and let him know because I had a whole lot of stuff on social media blowing up, and then I called my fianc and then my brother Dalton."
Ferch was awarded one of two open scholarships because of "his leadership and toughness," according to ISU's official release.
"I think I'm just more excited to see somebody else across from us and to hopefully start proving the media wrong," Ferch said. "From the two years I've been here we've been the underdog in most games. I'm excited to get back in Jack Trice Stadium."
Boesen is a Dowling Catholic graduate who started one game in 2013 but missed four games with a knee injury. He ended up playing in eight games, catching two passes for nine yards.