Photo via James Bomba on Instagram

Three former walk-ons earned IU football scholarships this week

It’s one of IU football’s best traditions, but one it was forced to abandon for a couple years due to roster complications created by NCAA eligibility rule changes stemming from the pandemic.

On Thursday, just a day before the season opener against Illinois, IU awarded scholarships to three walk-ons.  All three are on the offensive side of the football — wide receiver Christian Harris, and tight ends Ryan Barnes and James Bomba.

The program published a video on its Twitter page to commemorate the moment when each player learned the news from head coach Tom Allen.

Harris transferred to IU in 2019 after spending two years at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill.  The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Wheaton, Ill. product has played in 18 games over his three seasons in Bloomington, mostly on special teams.  In 2020 he was named IU’s Chris Beaty Outstanding Walk-On Player of the Year.  He made one tackle on special teams in 2021, and blocked a punt against Purdue.

Barnes is in his fifth season with the program.  The Noblesville, Ind. tight end is listed at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds.  He has played in seven games during his time at IU.  He earned scout team player of the week honors seven times and was named special teams scout team player of the year in 2019.  Barnes was a teammate of IU quarterback Grant Gremel and offensive lineman Cameron Knight at Noblesville H.S.

Bomba is a familiar name to many Indiana fans.  A Bloomington product (South H.S.), James’ parents are Kelly and Matt Bomba.  Kelly is an executive associate athletic director at IU, while Matt was an IU football letterwinner (1990-92).  His grandfathers Brad (1954-56) and Bob Van Pelt (1964-66) also lettered at IU, and Brad was a physician for the IU basketball team.

The 6-foot-6 and 251-pound Bomba started his career at Miami (Ohio) before transferring to his hometown school in 2021.  He redshirted the 2021 season and was the scout team player of the week when IU prepared for Minnesota.  Allen has routinely mentioned Bomba this summer as a player who has made significant strides and figures to see the field situationally with the the offense.

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