It’s safe to say that every college football walk-on has seen the Hollywood classic “Rudy.”

Multiple times, in most cases.

And they all share the same dream of running out of the tunnel on a crisp autumn Saturday afternoon and making a contribution to their team in front of a stadium full of adoring fans.

Most, however, stand a better chance at hitting the PowerBall jackpot than actually getting onto a field in a game that counts. For them, spring scrimmages such as those that were held at the ACC’s 17 football-playing schools this month are their 1 opportunity to have their hard work rewarded and enjoy a moment of glory they’ll never forget.

There’s always a handful every year that don’t just get a chance to play, but play so well that they stand out from the crowd.

And this year has been no exception.

So say hello to the 2024 inductees into the Spring Game Hall of Fame, players who made a name for themselves even if those names never make it into the official record books:

Chris Elko, Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets return a deep, talented receiving corps from an offense that ranked 4th in the ACC in scoring and produced the most passing touchdowns in the conference last season. But when coach Brent Key looked at the stat sheet after Tech’s Gold-White Game on April 13, he was surprised when he got to Elko’s line.

“Holy cow,” he said after noticing that the walk-on receiver caught 5 passes for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns while seeing action for both teams.

The redshirt freshman from Roswell, Ga., got his highlight moment on the final play before halftime when he outjumped 1 defender to haul in a Hail Mary pass from backup quarterback Zach Pyron, then outreached another defender to the pylon for a 53-yard touchdown.

While Elko’s numbers might have been a surprise, his effort wasn’t. It’s something starting quarterback Haynes King said he sees every day at practice.

“Everybody was rooting him on,” King said during a postgame press conference. “Everybody was like ‘Elko! Elko!’ every time he caught it. And that play before the end of the half, oh my God. He stuck the ball out and scored right there … just ridiculous. That’s just Elko right there.”

Elko is a preferred walk-on who recorded 868 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior in high school. While his big spring performance might not immediately translate into playing time this fall, it could give him a better chance of getting onto the field at some point in his career.

Kris Hughes, Louisville

Elko isn’t the only walk-on receiver to make the most of his opportunity this spring. Hughes put together an equally impressive effort during the Cardinals’ public scrimmage.

Running out of the slot, the 5-11, 190-pound redshirt freshman from Morganfield, Ky., contributed 5 catches for 63 yards. He also provided the winning margin for the offensive against the defense by taking a lateral on a reverse, breaking several tackles and sprinting 70 yards for the game’s final touchdown.

Like Elko, Hughes was a multi-sport star who stood out at an in-state high school. In his 4 varsity seasons at Union County High, he rolled up more than 4,200 yards of total offense while catching 132 passes and scoring 65 touchdowns.

“Kris Hughes is a walk-on who gets better everyday,” Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm said. “He works hard. You can coach him hard. He doesn’t miss reps. He doesn’t miss practice. The guys love him, so you love it when he does well.”

Major Byrd, North Carolina

Mack Brown’s decision to hold star running back Omarion Hampton out of the full-contact portion of the Tar Heels’ Blue-White game provided opportunities for others.

And Major Byrd lived up to his name by making a major contribution to the ground game.

Although official statistics weren’t kept, Byrd had several impressive runs and caught a couple of passes out of the backfield while splitting reps with freshman Davion Gause and graduate transfer Darwin Barlow.

His performance has added to the Tar Heels backfield depth and altered Brown’s priorities heading into the offseason.

“We’ve been very impressed with Major Burns,” the UNC coach said. “He’s a young guy who can and can run. He’s got good vision. And he gives you that 5th back. So we’re not as aggressive in the transfer portal at running back as we were before he moved over.”

Byrd is a redshirt sophomore from Charlotte who spent his first 2 seasons in Chapel Hill as a defensive back. He recorded a tackle in a win against Campbell before briefly entering the transfer portal. He decided to remain at UNC, a decision that was likely predicated on his switch to running back.

Luke McLaughlin, Boston College

Forget the Hall of Fame. McLaughlin is well on his way to becoming a spring game legend.

As a redshirt freshman in 2022, the 5-9 receiver caught 4 passes, 2 for touchdowns, in his first opportunity in an Eagles’ uniform. Fast forward this year. McLaughin was once again a spring standout by catching 7 passes for 68 yards.

It was a performance that led Kevin Stone of the Rivals site to compare McLaughlin to another undersized slot receiver for a New England-based team.

Former Patriots star Wes Welker.

His size is likely the only reason he wasn’t offered a scholarship out of Hudson High School in Ohio. He finished his prep career ranked 2nd on his school’s career list for receiving yards. He also holds school records as a sprinter on the track team.

McLaughlin has seen action on special teams in 4 games. But while he waits for his opportunity to catch passes in a regular season game, he has carved out a niche as member of the Eagles’ scout team – earning Scout Team Player of the Week honors before the Wake Forest game in 2021.

Trent Pearman, Clemson

OK, so Pearman isn’t your typical walk-on. He’s a 2-time South Carolina prep Player of the Year who would likely be on scholarship if his father wasn’t on Dabo Swinney’s staff as the Tigers’ director of scouting.

But he is officially a walk-on who is no higher than 3rd on Clemson’s depth chart behind a pair of blue-chip quarterbacks. So his performance earlier this month qualifies him for Spring Game Hall of Fame honors.

Splitting time between the Orange and White, Pearman outshined starter Cade Klubnik and backup Christopher Vizzina by going 13-of-18 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 62 yards, highlighted by a 49-yard touchdown run.

“He plays with good time, great time and he has a really good understanding,” Swinney said of his redshirt sophomore quarterback. “He has a lot of moxie, a lot of gamesmanship to his game that comes naturally to him. He’s been around it a long time and just has complete ownership of what we do.”

A lot would have to happen for Pearman to get into a regular season game other than in a mop-up situation of a lopsided win. But if it does happen, his spring performance should give Swinney and offensive coordinator Garrett Riley confidence in his ability to handle the situation.

Featured photo courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik