Unusual scholarships for athletes

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
5:45
PM ET
After a severe ski injury shattered Katie Hillson’s leg along with her collegiate and Olympic slope dreams at age 12, the Reno, Nev., native didn’t let disappointment hold her back. “I decided to work harder on one of the other sports I loved,” recalled the now 18-year-old, who also played soccer and basketball and ran track. But when she realized during her junior year that she wasn't good enough to get a college scholarship in any of those sports, she came up with a plan C: rowing.

The summer before her senior year, Katie started training on an ergometer, a stationary rowing machine. That fall, she sent videos of herself working out on the machine, along with her training times, to a half-dozen colleges. Coaches from all six called and, a few months later, she committed verbally to the University of Virginia. As for those Olympic dreams? “I have my eye on the 2016 Games in Brazil,” said the freshman rower, who joined her first crew team in college.

Katie Hilson
Courtesy of the Hilson Family/ESPNHSAfter training exclusively on an training on an ergometer, a stationary rowing machine, Katie Hilson earned a college scholarship in rowing.
Morgan Bogle also followed a unique path to earning a spot on a college team. “I played basketball and volleyball in high school,” said the 23-year-old senior at Mississippi State. “I was even offered a volleyball scholarship [to a different school] that I turned down.” Morgan had her heart set on attending MSU and, even though she knew she wouldn’t make either team, she inquired about scholarships for managers. As a freshman, she received a minimum scholarship that paid for meals and books. The support gradually grew to a full scholarship, and Morgan became the head manager of the women’s basketball team by her junior year.

Take a cue from these enterprising gals and consider earning extra cash for college via an alternative route, like one of these four unconventional scholarships.

Foot Locker Student Athlete Scholarship
In partnership with Do Something.org, Foot Locker awards 20 $20,000 scholarships to athletes who have volunteered in sports and made a difference in their communities.

Student Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year Award (aka the SAMMY)
This is a $7,500 scholarship awarded to 25 high school seniors who demonstrate academic and athletic excellence, leadership and community service. Applicants must also write an essay about milk.

Tall Clubs International Scholarships
OK, technically this isn’t an athletic scholarship, but it’s perfect for volleyball and basketball players as well as rowers. Basically, any girl who is 5-foot-10 or taller can apply for the $1,000 grant.

Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation Scholarships for Golf Caddies
Every year, more than 800 caddies attend college on full tuition and housing grants.

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