SAN JOSE, Calif. — With one game left in his college career, Donavan Mosley hasn't given up on his dream of finally playing for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
He's certainly put in the time.
Four years of grueling practices. Four years of hitting the weight room. Four years of tedious meetings and solitary film sessions.
Yet Mosley knows the odds are against him. He'll probably spend tonight the same way he always does — a mere spectator at the far end of the bench, a forgotten walk-on who works just as hard as all those more talented teammates but who has never set foot on the field during an actual game.
Four long years. Not even a single play for his beloved Tide.
"I put the blame on myself sometimes. I could've done this different, could've done that different," Mosley said. "But I understand where I'm at. I'm at Alabama. I'm not at some little school where the walk-ons can easily play."
While most of the attention heading into the national championship game is focused on stars such as Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, it's worth remembering those forgotten guys at the bottom of the depth chart — a dedicated group that usually pays its own way through school and puts in countless hours at practice, all while clinging to the hope of stealing a glance from the coach and maybe earning a snippet of playing time.
There are Rocky-like success stories, of course. Hunter Renfrow arrived at Clemson as a walk-on, quickly proved to be a highly effective receiver, and wound up catching the touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a national championship two years ago.
This will be Renfrow's final game, as well. He'll go out as one of the most beloved players in school history.
But that is the exception.
Mosley is much closer to the rule.
An undersized defensive back from San Antonio, Texas, he probably could've played at a lower-division school. But Mosley, unlike most walk-ons, qualified for a non-athletic scholarship at Alabama since his father served in the military. The idea of playing for such a powerhouse program was appealing — and, of course, he figured somewhere along the way, he'd at least get into one of those many blowout games on the Tide's schedule.
It never happened.
Playing time is especially precious at a school such as Alabama. Even when the Tide builds a big lead against an overmatched opponent, there are always plenty of four- and five-star recruits ready to step in.
The thought of quitting certainly crossed Mosley's mind.
He could never bring himself to walk away.
"Every kid's dream is to play," Mosley said. "Especially when you're seeing all your teammates have all this fun just playing the game. I haven't played in a game since high school. But I'm surrounded by football all the time. It's tough. Yeah, the winning is great. Being a part of this program is great. But at the end of the day, I want to play football."
As his senior year was winding down, Mosley circled one game on the calendar.
In the next-to-last contest of the regular season, Alabama hosted FCS school The Citadel — basically a glorified scrimmage for a school of the Tide's caliber. But Alabama sleepwalked through the first half, going to the locker room tied at 10. Even though the Tide finally hit its stride in the final two quarters, pulling away for a 50-17 victory, there wasn't enough time to get Mosley in the game.
"I'm not going to lie," Mosley said. "I cried a real tear after that game. I was hurting."
Mosley graduated last month with a business degree. In a couple of days, he'll get started on life after football.
But until the clock hits zero tonight, he's not giving up on the idea of hearing his name called, of pulling on his helmet and running on the field.