What Arkansas fans found out on Wednesday, Arkansas tailback Kody Walker had known for awhile.
The NCAA approved his medical hardship appeal for a sixth year of eligibility and thus Walker (6-2, 250) has been reclassified as a junior and has two years left to play for head coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks.
“I got the news right after the spring game actually,” Walker said Wednesday afternoon in a press conference. Coach B had told me and I was ecstatic. Just take it one year at a time and see how it goes.”
Walker, who rushed 26 times for 174 yards and three touchdowns in the Red-White game this past spring, suffered early season-ending injuries in both the 2011 and 2012.
In those two years, he played in a total of five games albeit scoring seven touchdowns.
“Definitely, it's a blessing for sure,” Walker said. “Those were probably two of the hardest seasons I've ever been through, but I grew mentally and I had a great staff behind me to help push me through.”
Bielema was obviously pleased with the news and happy for Walker, who rushed 31 times for 149 yards last season and has 250 yards rushing in his career headed into the 2015 campaign.
“We are very excited to have Kody with us for an additional season,” Bielema said. “Adversity has defined him throughout his career and he has championed the moment.
“Every person on our staff and every player in our locker room is pulling for Kody to succeed and we expect him to be a major contributor to our football team these next two years.”
Walker is on course to graduate in December and then will likely enter graduate school and get his Master’s in Sports Management.
“I'm graduating in Decemeber,” Walker said. “Just have to do an internship during the season. Probably going to enter my master's after that.”
Walker, a former Jeffferson City, Mo., prep star, is coming off his most productive season. He rushed for 149 yards last season while playing in all 13 games and starting one at fullback.
The big effort in the spring game - with fellow tailbacks Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins itting out - was certainly a confidence builder.
“That's one thing coming off injuries like that, your confidence is low,” Walker said. “You don't believe in yourself that much. So having the spring like I did just boosted my confidence back up. I'm going to take that into camp and keep running with it.”
He admits there were times when he didn’t think things were going to work out.
“I tell you there were definitely tough times,” Walker said. “You know a lot went through my head. I was contemplating leaving and stuff like that but I just kept pushing. I had a great support system with my family and the people that were here so they just kept pushing me and it ended up working out.”
Walker said he has taken steps to stay away from injuries.
“I've definitely taken care of my body a lot differently than when I first got here,” Walker said. “ That's when all the injuries were taking place. I've learned a lot of things, a lot of tricks to help my body refresh better. That's helping me a lot.”
Walker stayed because he wanted to finish what he started even as he worked behind Williams, Collins and Korliss Marshall.
“I just felt like this was the best place for me,” Walker said. “ The SEC and the SEC West at that and this is where I always wanted to play. I made it here so why leave? Just a couple of injuries and minor setbacks.”
Walker has been told he will split time at fullback and tailback this season and will push Williams and Collins.
“Play it by ear,” Walker said. “Play it when the season comes, camp rolls around and we'll see how everybody's doing. Right now we're just all competing and pushing each other to make this team better and make each other better.”
He notes the summer has been a positive one for the team as it has worked with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.
“It's been great,” Walker said. “ I think we have made strides each and every week. Coach Herb preaches to us each and every week how we have to keep moving forward. Every day we take that step.”
Walker Feels Blessed By NCAA Decision
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