West Branch to Iowa City, Part II?

In Iowa, few football programs over the past 18 years can match the winning tradition of West Branch. When an Iowa fan hears of that school, many of them will be reminded of former all-state, all-Big Ten & NFL all-pro performer Marv Cook, a 1984 graduate from the school. However, there is another name you might want to remember for next season, someone who may be following in Cook's footsteps; quarterback/athlete Caleb Walter (6'4"/210/4.65).

This Class of 2007 QB/Athlete is drawing comparisons to the former Iowa great. Not just because their size is very similar at the same (Caleb Walter is 6-4, 210 while Cook was 6-4, 200 at the same age). Cook was an all state quarterback and defensive end in high school and played tight end for Iowa after making a name for himself on special teams early in his career. West Branch coach Butch Pedersen was a first year head coach during Cook's senior year (he was an assistant in previous years) and sees the similarities.

"Marvin was just one of those rare natural athletes that could do anything. He was in the weight room a lot. He was very intelligent, very field smart. I see the same things in Caleb. He will make good plays with his arm and with his legs. Small schools like ours do not get many special players like that," Petersen said. So special in fact, that the Bears installed an Urban Meyer-like shotgun offense in 2005 to exploit Walter's talents. The move was made in the third game of the season and turned out to be very fruitful.

In the first game using the new offense against the top ranked team in the state (eventual Class 1-A champ Iowa City Regina), Walter led his team to a 13-10 fourth quarter come from behind victory. Basically, he took control of the game. In the fourth quarter alone, he rushed for 85 yards and threw for another 102. That is no small feat given the Regals only gave up an average of 130 total yards per game this season. Walter finished the season throwing for a school record 1,699 yards (18 TD, 4 INT) and rushing for another 533 (10 TD). He also intercepted three balls from his free safety position.

"You just get comfortable in an offense and it clicks," Walter said. "I like the fact that it allows me to use my arm and my legs. People compare me with Marv Cook and that is an honor. He is probably the best football player in the history of West Branch."

The two first met at a basketball game in Walter's sophomore year.

"He told me to just work hard and not worry about being from a small school. He says we are kind of alike, but you've just got to be your own player. Everybody is always comparing us because of the West Branch thing and the fact we play the same position. They tell me we are equal."

Walter is beginning to buy into the fact that he is the leader on the field and off the field. "My teammates and the coaches are starting to respect my decision making. I have started for two seasons, so my experience is helping me with that. I am the leader on the field because it comes with playing quarterback. I like to make hits on defense, though. I am still developing as an athlete, too."

Presently, he is leading his basketball team to a 12-5 record by averaging 17.5 ppg. Walter plans to run track this spring - his first season since 8th grade in which he ran the half mile in the low 2:00‘s. That development is attracting some fairly big schools from across the Midwest.

"Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, and Wisconsin are probably the four main schools I hear from. I do not have any verbal or written offers yet," Walter stated. "I am going to camp at Iowa and Iowa State this summer for sure. I will also be going to the junior day at Iowa next weekend and Iowa State has invited me up to theirs, too. Coach (Reese) Morgan from Iowa has been here to the high school a couple of times and so has an Iowa State coach. "

New Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema recently spoke with Walter on the phone earlier in this week.

Growing up in Iowa, Walter has always been a Hawkeye fan and understands the legacy Cook has left. "I have been a Hawkeye fan all my life, so playing for them would be pretty cool," the junior said with great excitement.

"Marv came from West Branch and played in the NFL, so you never know."


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