Hardreck Walker, a 6-foot-4 280-pound defensive tackle from Houston's Westfield High School is a key figure in a very talented defensive line. Westfield had a good season, due quite a bit to Walker's play, but anything short of a state title leaves Walker wanting more.
"It was pretty good. I feel like we exited kind of early. We could have gone further. We lost to a team, a district rival, that we'd beaten before."
Walker has had the privilege of being mentored by a couple of great defensive linemen at his high school. Anthony Smith, now at Texas Tech, and Desmond Jackson, who is at Texas, taught Walker what it means to be a dominant defensive lineman.
"Anthony Smith taught me a lot of things. As a sophomore I had a chance to play behind Desmond Jackson. They taught me a lot. I had the privilege of being brought up by two outstanding D-Linemen. I think I had between 50-60 tackles and 9-10 sacks. I think I had a good year though."
Most defensive linemen would be satisfied with those numbers, but Walker knows he can do better. He also knows that he's no secret and that he'll definitely attract more attention from opposing offenses this year.
"Of course I feel like I could have done better. I didn't get all-district, but my teammate did. I mean I got a lot of double teams and I'm expecting even more this year now that my name is out there. I love to deal with it. I just do what I can and my teammates will do the rest."
And he knows that facing that added resistance, he will need to step his game up as well.
"I want to speed up my first step. My first step is a little slow. With that I want to get my feet a little faster. I'm getting better at the pre-snap reads on the O-Linemen and reading things like their fingers and their eyes."
Walker has a thorough offer list already and is hearing from a number of schools including two in-state rivals as well as a traditional power from the Midwest.
"The main schools are Texas A&M and their 4-3. I feel like I thrive in their 4-3. I'm probably a three technique. Texas Tech too. They're recruiting me pretty hard. When they came to see my teammate Anthony, they liked me. Michigan's come in pretty hard this last couple weeks after they offered."
In addition to Michigan, Walker is receiving deep interest from the Big Ten.
Though far from home, Northwestern has grabbed Walker's attention for more than just football. Walker intends to major in civil engineering, so the academic prowess of Northwestern has some appeal.
"I love the education side of Northwestern. When I talked to the coaches, I really liked what they said about getting my degree. They're a strong engineering school and I want to go into engineering. I really like Northwestern."
Running point on Walker's recruitment at Northwestern has been linebackers coach Randy Bates.
"Coach Bates has been recruiting me so far. He's a funny guy. Every time we talk we laugh a lot and sit on the phone. It's never anything too serious. He understands that I just want to relax and not talk about football for a while. But we just talk about life and normal things too."
With a busy schedule already, it has been tough for Walker to go too far from home for college visits. But with the arrival of summer, Walker is looking to hit the road and view some schools of interest as well as prove his way into a prestigious camp.
"I took a couple visits this spring to some local Texas schools like A&M and Texas Tech. This summer I might hit a couple schools. I'm not entirely sure which ones I'm going to hit yet. I haven't done any camps or combines yet. I'm hoping to get invited to The Opening."
Walker originally intended to have a decision out of the way in just a couple months, but in favor of being thorough and making an informed decision, he may end up waiting and taking his officials before making a final call.
"I want to have a decision by the end of summer, but the way things are looking, that may not happen yet. I might end up doing all my officials and then make the decision."