SAN JOSE -- Hansell Wilson lights up at the thought of being able to eat with his San Jose State teammates this year.
The walk-on junior wide receiver -- and many players across the nation -- will benefit from a new NCAA rule that allows programs to provide unlimited meals to players, including walk-ons. Previously, walk-on football players could eat during summer training camp, but once school was in session, the meals were cut off.
For Wilson and other walk-ons, that meant taking a quick shower after practice and heading home for a peanut butter jelly sandwich or buying a quick bite before class.
"It's honestly great," Wilson said of the change. "It used to be hard. All your friends go in there and eat, get a full course meal. You have to go to the locker room, take a shower and walk home empty-handed."
That non-eating group last year included the team's starting running back, Jarrod Lawson, whose breakout season earned him a scholarship. He was going to get to eat this year regardless, but is happy to see the change.
"It came a little late," Lawson said. "But I know it was something that was hard for me to see, constantly walking by the training room and seeing people eat. I love that it shows all these people that hard work can pay off in that room. Everyone that works hard out here can go eat in there and that's a fair rule that needed to be changed."
Feeding 25 additional walk-on players comes at a cost and San Jose State coach Ron Caragher had to concoct a strategy to afford to do so. He did so by deciding to fly commercially to the Spartans' games at Auburn and Navy, rather than take a charter flight that can cost three times as much. It's a small sacrifice, Caragher and players say.
"It's a little sacrifice but it can go a long ways and the guys are all-in," Caragher said.
There are even some benefits. The flight to Baltimore for the Navy game will be nonstop. When the team flew cross country to play Navy two years ago, it had to make a stop in Wichita, Kansas, for fuel.
The flight to Atlanta for the Auburn game will stop in Phoenix, but in both situations, the team has the whole plane booked to itself. The lone drawback is they'll have to go through the airport's regular security and board the plane in the terminal, but some players are even looking forward to that.
"Sometimes you want to walk through the airport with your gear on and be noticed," senior wide receiver Jabari Carr said. "I mean, who's not going to notice 100-something guys wearing blue sweatsuits?"
For the walk-ons, the sacrifice of the team to help them out means a lot.
"It just shows that coaches and players care for the walk-ons," sophomore defensive back Dominic Barnes said. "They're unselfish, they thought of us. The fact that they did that, it means a lot."
The cost savings also allowed the team to purchase two new sets of jerseys and a gold alternate helmet. The new sets of blue and white jerseys will have a more "traditional" San Jose State look, Caragher said. The SJSU written across the chest will be replaced by San Jose State and there will be an SJ logo on the sleeves.
Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.