Walker Gets First Taste of Penn State

The Wayne, N.J. DePaul Catholic running back grabbed an offer from Penn State in 2013 and visited Saturday.

DePaul Catholic was 10-2 a fall ago, ranked fourth in New Jersey, and finished as the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 champs.

Head coach John McKenna's Spartans, based in Wayne, N.J., was built with a senior nucleus and a wealth of underclassmen. One of them, class of 2016 running back Kareem Walker, traveled to University Park last Saturday with a handful of teammates to take in the Nittany Lions eighth spring practice.

"It was good," Walker said. "I liked the atmosphere, the coaches, the college, and everything around the area. It was a nice place."

Walker carried 115 times for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns in a dominating sophomore season. It ended long after he picked up his first offer, from Penn State, when former Lion leader Bill O'Brien was still around.

The back doesn't recall which Penn State assistant stopped by his school this January, or when, just that his offer from the Lions stood despite the coaching change. It's a fact, he said, that was emphasized during his visit.

"They've been telling me I still have [an offer] and they said it again Saturday," Walker said. "[Head] Coach [James] Franklin was telling me about the advantages of staying near home so my family can come see me play at a good place. He told me about the staff, and said it's a good place to play college football."

Penn State running backs coach Charles Huff handled the bulk of the conversing and relationship building with the 5-foot-11, 210 pound ball carrier.

Huff had already watched Walker's tape by the time he arrived, so while the two discussed Penn State and its football team, the first-year assistant also offered the sophomore a tip.

"Coach Huff was telling me he was impressed with how young I am but can still stick my foot in the ground," Walker said. "He also taught me something I didn't even know."

The issue was a minor one, yet Walker said he's already begun thinking of ways to fix it.

"He said some running backs' hips don't dip when they go to make a cut. I didn't notice that about myself, but he pointed it out to me, and I'm going to work on it.

"It was real good that he noticed that. He really studied me, and knows how good I am and what I can work on."

Walker has yet to set any other visits, but said he and his teammates, and coaches, are always keeping an eye out for dates they can hit the road. The back said that he believes part of his team's success can be credited to a team-wide desire to play at the college level, which allows them to bond together on the road.

They did at Penn State, which Walker left impressed.

"I just learned a lot," Walker said. "I didn't know too much; I never knew how many people the stadium held and when they won national titles. I didn't know their tradition and things like that, but I know now."

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