Random Thoughts: Randy Walker Legacy

Coach Roy has been reading a lot of news stories about the death of Northwestern Head Coach Randy Walker. Its amazing how many people he touched over the years, and the number of folks out there who either loved or respected the man who gave Northwestern respectability on the gridiron...

Randy Walker had a lot of friends:
Even among those crusty media types that sit in the press conferences day after day.

Just take a look at the NU Sports News Digest for the past 2 days - check out the commentary section under football - every one of these writers has a different Randy Walker story that sticks in their mind.

Mine is still the way he recruited kids...He'd get your commitment, then tell you that he's going to try to get a kid better than you for your position next year.

I've been around a lot of Div II and Div III kids since my boys decided to play youth football. They break down into 3 groups:
  1. The "stars" who expect to start,
  2. The kids who have to work hard to make the team, but do it for their parents or girlfriends, and
  3. The kids who play for the love of the game - who put up with practice because it lets them play - who make things happen because that's the way they play - to win.
Randy Walker always seemed to get the 3rd kind of kid and that's why NU was always ranked 9th or 10th in the Big 10 during preseason, and finished at least at .500.

Some of the things I'd forgotten that came rushing back after reading some of the other columns:
  • The large number of "Randyisms": Chuckles the Clown, The Dog won't Hunt, Johnny off the Pickleboat, a special player, they go on and on.
  • Randy Walker's Christian faith. He truly believed the way he believed in his kids.
  • The respect that a wide number of people had for Coach Walker - there are coaches outside of Evanston who are also devastated because they had either worked for him, played with him or just knew him. His work ethic touched a lot of folks over the years.
  • His impact on his players - they say that everyone has one or two people outside of their parents who becomes a major part of their life - Randy Walker was that kind of person to almost everyone who played for him, starting back with his days as a Miami running back.
  • How close he was to his family. I used to talk with his son, recruiting assistant Jamie Walker from time to time, mainly on the sidelines during practices. The Walkers were family, and it was clear to me that father and son were a lot closer than maybe they even knew.
I think Coach Walker really wanted to become like Joe Paterno at Penn State. He wanted to stay at the helm of NU as long as he physically could remain at the top of his game. After Mike Dunbar and Jim Patton left last spring, he talked about his role in developing assistants who could move on.

Yeah, I'm repeating myself, but I remember him saying that he told his assistants that in 10 years, he expected that he'd be the only one still at the table. Now, that won't happen.

But in the traditional Passover ceremony, its customary in some homes to put a seat at the table and leave the door open for the prophet Elijah.

Now I certainly don't want to show any disrespect for an ancient tradition, but maybe the coaches can leave an empty seat at the football conference table to remind them of what Randy Walker brought to Northwestern.

Its a thought...
-- da Coach

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