From Maroon and Gold to Silver and Black

A late season injury may have denied Andrew Walter from being drafted higher and receiving a more lucrative contract. However, it didn't prevent him from being picked by what he described as the perfect fit - the Oakland Raiders. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, the former Sun Devil great shared his experiences from his team's training camp, talked about life as an NFL player, and offered his thoughts on his apprentice Sam Keller.

Andrew Walter, who became the Pac-10's career leader in touchdown passes in his senior year, is pleased with his progress thus far in his young professional career. "Camp is going well," he said. "I'm just trying to learn the system, and pick up things as I go along. We're going through the installation of the offense right now, and this is the second time I've seen it. I haven't seen everything there is to see at this point, so this will only get deeper and deeper. But so far so good. I feel good about how I'm coming along."

The former Arizona State signal caller, who got to keep his jersey number 16 in the pros, has also participated in the Oakland Raiders' mini-camp shortly after the draft. He admitted that those handful or so of practices in the spring have helped the transition go much smoother. "Everything is brand new, so in the beginning you don't know if to look right, look left, look up…all the words sound like Chinese," he remarked. "The joke now is that things used to be in Chinese and now it's morphed into Spanish and coming around to English (smile). The key is just to get enough time and enough reps, and to make sure that I take mental reps when it's someone else's time."

When asked about his experience on draft day, the normally even keel Walter was an uncharacteristic bundle of nerves. After all, uncertainty will tend to have that effect on you. "It was stressful," he remarked concerning his feelings on that day. "I'm usually a low-key guy that doesn't get too high with the highs or too lows with the lows. Thank god that's just my personality. But on that day it was crazy because you have no control over where you go."

"Coming off the injury, I didn't know how that would effect me, but I think we all saw how that affected me – I would have liked to go higher and make more money," Walter continued. "But god has a plan and I'm happy at where I'm at. I could have got picked by some other team and it may have not worked for me. Now that I'm here I know this is the place for me. Hopefully I'll take my time, learn everything, and get my shot one day."

During the regular season, the Silver and Black were scouting Walter perhaps more than any other NFL team out there. Sure enough, the Raiders acted on their intentions and selected Walter in the third round with the 69th pick overall. "They made the comment that I was their highest rated quarterback on the board," Walter stated. "That was a pretty big compliment because they were five guys (quarterbacks) taken in front of me. Everyone says that it only takes one team to like you. The third round came and the Raiders pulled the trigger, and I couldn't be happier."

On the surface, it seems that Walter's feeling of content would be greatly attributed to the tendencies of the Raiders to throw the deep ball with more frequency than the rest of the league. The NFL rookie agreed with that assertion, but added that other factors have created a strong sense of satisfaction as well with his new team. "Certainly the style, but also the tradition, the location, the coaches, the ownership, management," he said, "it's hard to put your finger on what it is, but I just know it's a real good fit. Certainly the style fits me real well, because it's similar to the style I had in college. Obviously there's a lot more stuff to learn and the defenses are more complicated than they were in college – but some of the concepts are the same."

In his own words, Walter is known as a low key guy. Conservative and religious are other traits that would probably do justice in describing the signal caller. Thus, how does he fit with the Raiders players' image of renegades who usually march to the beat of their own drum? "It's really not a big deal," he claimed. "There's a lot of characters on this team, but that's how it is on every team. A lot guys here are veterans so they have earned the right to say what they want. We have one offensive lineman here that's going on his 13th year (Ron Stone), so he definitely has earned that right. With the Raiders, I think it's the media that's playing up the image more than it really is. It all comes down to good guys that are good players, that want to win. Coach Turner says that when you have those kind of guys, that's what really counts."

Walter is currently listed as the third string quarterback behind starter Kerry Collins, and back-up Marques Tuiasosopo. The former ASU standout described both as being very supportive teammates. "They've been great," Walter stated. "Kerry Collins is going on his 11th year. He's been to a Super Bowl, he's a Pro Bowler, so again he's a guy that's been there and done that. So, he's someone I would definitely ask questions on how to do certain things and you listen to what he has to say. Talking to him gives you a new perspective on the information, and then you say ‘OK, that makes sense.' Tuiasosopo is a good quarterback that brought Washington to the Rose Bowl. They're both good guys and have been real helpful to me as a rookie."

It's a dream come true, especially for a prolific long-range thrower such as Walter, to have standout wide receiver Randy Moss on the same team. Walter has had some opportunities to throw the ball to Moss in practice, and he's naturally full of respect towards the pro-bowler. "It's huge to watch him play, and he's probably the best in the game right now," said Walter. "We have great receivers, and our receiving core is very deep. If people try to double him or play off, we have other guys that will make a play, and we have Lamont Jordan coming from the backfield. Hopefully it will be a great season for us and lots of fun to watch."

Life off the field can be just as challenging as it is between the lines for an NFL rookie. Walter however, seems to be handling the transition in a positive way. "The Bay Area is great and has tremendous weather all the time," he commented. "In the press conferences when I talked about coming back for my senior year, I talked about how much fun it is not paying taxes, a mortgage, car payments…well, now I have all three (smile). So, that's life in the real world. It's not a bad thing, and just another adjustment like everything else. It's fun experiencing new things, and it's only a two-hour flight back to Phoenix." Walter added that he's hopeful he can touch base with another Sun Devil great that just turned pro and playing in Oakland – basketball player Ike Diogu. "I'd love to have him come and see a game," Walter remarked.

The departure of Walter, who owns several significant ASU quarterback records, has created a natural sense of anxiety over the prospects of his successor Sam Keller. The junior's MVP performance in the Sun Bowl has gone a long way in alleviating some that uneasiness, and Walter definitely sounds like one who believes in his former road trip roommate. "Sam handles pressure well, and cane in as a freshman and picked up the system pretty fast," said Walter. "In the Sun Bowl, where plays were there to be had – he made those. He's a cool headed guy, even though he gets fired up and has celebrations after a touchdown. Yeah, he bows to the stands (as Keller did in the Sun Bowl following a touchdown pass), but that's him and that's fun. That's what college football should be. The more important thing is that in a pressure situation, he'll be able to withstand that. He did that in the Sun Bowl and hopefully he'll do that for us again this year."

Walter has been accustomed the last few years to being the offensive leader on the team, and one that has the burden of his squad's success resting heavily on his shoulders. Obviously, the NFL has a different set of expectations for the rookie, which in turn have re-shaped his goals for the 2005 season. "I think my goals this season will be a little more abstract – it's just not like college," he explained. "I'm not going in as the starter, and they are guys that have done it before playing ahead of me and rightfully so. I'm just trying to learn the system, improve, and trying to find some measurements that would give tangible goals. But really all goals right now are abstract."

One of these days, Andrew Walter's aspirations will become concrete and the wish of being a starter in the NFL will become reality. If his collegiate success is any indication of his prospects with the Oakland Raiders, it should be a dream career for the Arizona State legend and a nightmare to all of those teams who passed on the opportunity to draft him before the Silver and Black.

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