RECRUITING: Interview With UF Commit Walker

One of the biggest surprises of the spring for the Florida Gators came on Wednesday when Ft. Myers Riverdale running back Chevon Walker became the first recruiting commitment for Coach Urban Meyer's Class of 2006. The Jamaica-born Walker was on his way back from a Miami combine Sunday when he spoke with Gator Country.

Walker is a 5-11, 190-pound tailback who is blessed with sprinter's speed, excellent strength and outstanding athletic ability. He was in Gainesville last Wednesday to see the Gators practice when he decided to pull the trigger on his commitment. According to Coach Scott Jones, Chevon surprised the Gator coaches with his early decision.

"What was kind of cool was Coach Meyer gave his talk and then a couple of seconds to think about it," said Jones. "Then he looked at Chevon and said 'what do you think Chevon?' Chevon said, 'Hey, I want to come here.' Coach Meyer paused for about 5-6 seconds, I am not sure he knew he was going to commit right then. Then Coach Meyer got up and gave him a hug, it was kind of cool."

Chevon was a little more laid back at the moment; nevertheless he is ready to be a Gator. "We (Walker ad Meyer) sat down and had a little talk about being a Gator," Walker said. "He was the best coach I have seen so far."

The commitment came a week and half after Walker visited the University of Florida for Junior Day. Walker came up to watch practice and get the decision over with. While a surprise to Coach Meyer and the Florida staff, Walker knew the time was right to say yes to the Gators.

"I had been thinking about it the whole week to go ahead and commit and get the pressure off of me," he said.

Walker's decision was not spur of the moment, but instead one which he had thought through completely.

"They have good academics, good coaching, and good facilities," he said., clicking off some of the things that factored into his choice.

Walker called his recruiting area coach, Steve Addazio "a pretty good guy" and in the phone conversations he's had with his future position coach at Florida, Stan Drayton, he said "We had some talks on the phone. We had some running back and coach talks. Whenever I talked to that man it was just me and him, one-on-one. He told me he would be there for me and stuff like that."

Walker grew up playing soccer in Jamaica and it wasn't until he moved to the US that the American version of the game they call "football" elsewhere in the world became an option.

"I am Jamaican, so we never watched or heard about football until I came here," he said. "I came here in 1998. I played soccer in Jamaica and ran track. I don't play soccer now, just track and football."

Coach Jones has high praise for his star running back. The speedster with size will be the focal point of the Riverdale team this year.

"He is not afraid of anything," Jones said. "He will run between the tackles or he will run outside. He likes contact a lot, but we are going to work on that so he knows when to go out of bounds, too. We don't want to get him hurt. This will only be his fourth year playing football. He is just a great athlete that could play soccer, too."

Getting Walker to say anything good about himself was like puling teeth. It took quite a bit of prodding and some help from Coach Jones to break down the modesty barrier.

"I am a leader on the team and show them we have to be a team to win," Walker said. "I am a leader in school too. Yeah, I like to hit a little bit. I like to get aggressive, motivated and hyped. I don't like to run out of bounds. I am a man. I put my shoulder down and drive to go out and get more yards."

He doesn't limit football to running the ball. He's a big part of Riverdale's defense at either corner or safety, but his college position will be lining up seven yards deep and finding holes in the defense that have been opened up by his offensive line.

He enjoys going to a movie in his free time, but he's never too far from the gym. He's a weight room warrior who understands the value of physical strength.

"I do a lot of working out and go to the movies," he said. "I chill with my girlfriend too."

His girlfriend may have Gainesville on her radar, too. "She is thinking about it," Walker said.

Just back from the Miami combine, he shared his numbers with Gator Country.

"On the bench press I did 16 reps, vertical jump a 29-5, the 40 a 4.56(seconds), and the shuttle a 4.52 (seconds)," he said.

Walker knows he will have to shoulder a huge load for Riverdale to make it into the postseason this year, but he's ready to lead his team.

"We are going to be pretty good and try to go all the way," he said.

Although he's only been in the US and playing football a very short time, Chevon Walker has accomplished quite a bit already. He's academically qualified to enter the University of Florida so he's got life on track in that area, too, so he has good reasons to feel a bit of pride and accomplishment.

"I feel proud of myself," he said when he finally committed. "I am the only one in my family that went to college. It is a big step."

If past accomplishments are any indication, there will be plenty of big steps that he will be taking for the Florida Gators in the years to come.

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