Athleticism Makes Walls A Quality Recruit

The Fighting Illini football team added a couple last minute decision-makers to its 2012 Signing Day haul. One of those is an underrated running back from Ohio with the size and speed to become an excellent college player. LaKeith Walls was originally committed to NC State but changed his mind after visiting the UI campus.

Illinois football coach Tim Beckman had followed the career of Lakeith Walls while still at Toledo, so he made a beeline to Cleveland once he was hired by the Illini. Walls was impressed.

"I'm happy with my choice. I feel like it was the place for me. It was late in the process, and at the time I thought I was committed. But Coach Beckman recruited me with when he was at Toledo.

"I took a visit and ended up liking it. From the time I left campus, I just knew it was where I wanted to be. I wanted to play at a high level, and Illinois brings a high level plus a family atmosphere from the coaches to the players."

Was it difficult decommitting from North Carolina State?

"It was tough, but I felt like me being from Ohio, I was rushed into my decision. They recruited me hard, but it just didn't feel right.

"They called me in November and asked if I wanted to be a part of their program. Make a decision now before we fill up and have no spots. Down the line, they got some big cats. But I had to commit early in November. So I ended up going with Coach Beck."

The 6'-3", 195 pounder has a unique combination of size and speed.

"Pretty much what I bring to the table is I'm tall and I'm shifty, and I have good pick-up speed. I run a 10.7 hundred, so I pick up real fast. And I never let anybody get to my legs. I can't really describe it, but for me to be tall, I run hard, and I run through a lot of tackles."

The James Ford Rhodes High School athlete played both ways for his Division 1 team, and he excelled.

"This year, I ended up rushing for 1723 yards. I had over 30 touchdowns between defense and offense, and I made All-State in Ohio. So I played pretty decent.

"I played outside linebacker on defense. It was like a walk-up safety. I had five defensive touchdowns this year. I had a 93 yard interception return, a 77 yard fumble return, an 89 yard interception return, and I think two 75 yard interception returns."

Walls is also a track star.

"Right now, I'm running the 400, the 60, and I'm doing the relays with my teammates in the 4 X 400 and 4 X 200."

That's indoors. Last spring in the Ohio state outdoor meet, he placed in four events. He didn't make it in the 100, however, admitting his height was a detriment in his takeoffs.

"I did a lot of training after last season. Last year in the 100 meters at the state meet, I had trouble getting out of the blocks. So I went to work and did a lot of training to help me get out faster. So now it's real confident for me."

Besides his 100 meter time, which is already outstanding, he hopes to improve his 400 as well.

"My best 400 is 48.5. Hopefully I can get that down to 47 in the state championship."

Walls has admirable goals for his career post football.

"I'm going into Special Education. I would have to say my interest in it came from my coach. My coach teaches special education. A lot of times, I would sit in his classes, and I would teach a fitness class for the past two years. So I've been working with kids like that already. It sparked my interest is something I would like to do."

He hopes to attend the Spring Game, and he will begin competing for playing time at running back beginning this summer.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories