Allen Walker, the senior Sam Linebacker for the Rebels, said it all at the Cotton Bowl. . . .
. . . "I came to Ole Miss as a boy. I will leave as a man."
When all is said and done, isn't that what the true college experience is all about? Maturity. Growing up. Making better decisions. Getting ready for the real world.
Early in his Rebel career, Walker got a well-publicized DUI, a brief suspension and was briefly tagged as "lazy."
Slowly, but surely, he came to realize that was not how he wanted his life to go and he was determined to get on the right path.
Allen, who had offseason sports hernia surgery, stood at the podium of a recent press gathering and explained it all as he discussed becoming one of the team leaders.
First, the operation.
"I flew to Philadelphia (PA) and got it fixed. I was up walking around the next day," said Allen. "I'm about 90% right now, but I will go through spring training, of course.
"I will probably not go through all the scrimmages, but I will do all the drills and things like that. I'm sure the coaches will make me sit out some things, but that's OK, I need to get well."
Now, being a senior.
"I go out every day and try to be that guy who leads by example doing the right things on and off the field," he said. "You have to have the players' respect to do that and I have that right now. I won't lose it. There's no such thing as a bad team, just bad leaders, and we take that seriously. We know we have to lead this team into battle every game to keep going as a good program."
It took and up and down journey for him to reach the plateau of senior leader, as he attests.
"When you leave Mom and Dad for the first time and you're kind of on your own, it seems like every day you are getting punched in the face and trouble is finding you," Allen said. "But it's not like that. As a boy, you don't understand there are rules you have to live by to be successful. My time here has taught me that.
"Every day, I wake up and read the newspaper to make sure I am aware of what is going on around me. I try to stay sharp in my every day life. I never want to leave the house in the morning lagging in knowledge or lagging physically. Whatever it may be, I want to be one step ahead. It's all about growing up. It's all about becoming a man and a leader. I take pride in that now."
Allen has faith in the Rebel linebacking corps, despite the losses of Patrick Trahan and Lamar Brumfield.
"We had a pretty solid six last year and I think we'll have a solid six this year when all is said and done," he explained. "You've got me and Joel Kight on the outside and Jonathan Cornell in the middle. Then you have D.T. Shackelford behind Cornell and Mike Marry, Alex Williams, Rudy Wilson and Brandon Sanders to choose from on the outside, depending on who steps up. We'll have a good six, I believe.
"Mike, who will back me up, doesn't run as good as the rest of us who have been in the program for a long time yet, but he's got a bigger body, he reads plays well and he can make plays. He'll have a role once he learns the defense thoroughly.
"As for Joel being a starter, he's a smaller guy, but he has a lot of heart and is real smart. Coach (Tyrone) Nix will have him ready."
The thought process in the Rebel camp is that the defense may have to carry the day early on while the offense gets its legs under them. Allen says that really is no extra pressure.
"We, as defensive guys, always want the game on us. It really doesn't matter what the offense does or doesn't do - we always want to put up a goose egg," he noted.
Allen Walker has gone from a flighty, inconsistent "boy" to a focused, driven man in his tenure at Ole Miss.
That will be reflected in his play in 2010.
Walker matures during career
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