5'11" 195-pound Buford junior running back Darius Walker made his mark this past year as an underclassmen in a state rife with senior running talent. Starting with the Nike Camp in Athens, Georgia, he burst onto the scene with his standout performances. He was named the top underclassman at the loaded camp, and the #3 overall running back. He ran a 4.50 forty time at that camp, but since has improved his speed and strength and has been timed by his coach running a 4.39. But the camp performance was only a precursor for what was to come during his junior season, where he rumbled for 1,986 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Buford offense is largely predicated on the run, which helped to showcase his talents as Walker's rushing led them to a state championship in 2002. As a result, he was named all-county and all-state, as well as the all-area Player of the Year. Student Sports went so far as to name him an All-American.
With that kind of profile, it was only a matter of time for the offers to flow forth. The first scholarship, though, came from the Naval Academy as February turned to March. Walker had more letters than he could count, but as March matured, the offers had yet to explode. Then two weeks ago, the first shot was fired across the boom as Stanford made the first major offer. "I had been hopeful that they would offer," Walker reveals. "I had emailed with them and called them, so they certainly knew of my interest. Coach David Kelly has been recruiting me, including a lot of post cards about the campus. I was so excited to get the offer. I've heard all about their academics, and it's pretty cool to have a chance to go where Chelsea Clinton, John Elway and Tiger Woods went. There are a lot of famous people to come out of Stanford. I like the academics, and you have to keep in mind that you never know how football will play out in your life."
Soon thereafter, offers came from Maryland and Notre Dame, but the biggest bomb of all was dropped at the beginning of this week when Nebraska told him they were offering him a scholarship. The Huskers were his childhood favorite, and one offer he badly wanted. "To grow up loving them and then get an offer is amazing," he exclaims. He says that Nebraska was just a favorite as a youngster, and not necessarily the prohibitive favorite for his college future, but they are undoubtedly one of the top teams to beat.
He also notes that of the offers he has thus far received, the scholarship from the Cardinal is the one that has most excited his family. "My whole family stresses grades, so they were the most excited about Stanford," Walker reveals. "They have the best academics of the bunch. And Coach Kelly has told us so much about the beauty of the campus and the atmosphere that I just can't wait to go visit."
Walker is pretty careful to not highlight other schools outside his offer list at this time. I asked the question from all different angles - Who else do you like? Who do you expect to offer next? Who else is recruiting you the hardest? But he wants to leave the door wide open for all suitors. "I hope I get offers from everyone," he responds. "That would be nice." Though when I spoke with Walker more than a month ago, he at that time listed a top list of schools outside Nebraska and Stanford of Maryland, Miami, Georgia, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. That would seem a good list to find some of his other favorites, with Miami being a key suspect.
As for his criterion of school selection, he has a few early ideas in mind. "I want to play for a national championship team," he offers. "My plan is to see how these schools' seasons go and then stack them up. I also want to take my time and see who else rolls in [with offers]. I'm interested in the people who are most interested in me." He does not know when he will take unofficial or official visits, but says that Stanford and Nebraska are two of the five officials he's sure he will take.
Georgia and Georgia Tech recently received unofficial visits as Walker checked out their spring practices, though he says it was very informal - just checking things out, rather than having any involved meetings with coaches. He has been to the Georgia campus in Athens several times, and admits that there is a serious pull there. "I have teammates from the last few years who are there, and some going there this fall," the Buford junior explains. "That makes it natural for me to like the school."
One of the most encouraging notes on Darius Walker is his academic strength and focus. He has earned all A's in high school, earning a 4.0 GPA. "Time management is important to me, and I really want to keep up that 4.0," he explains. "School comes first for me, and then I make time for football later." The Buford back is still looking for his first SAT score when he takes the test in June, and he says he'd like to clear 1200. He scored a 980 on the PSAT as a sophomore.
As the offers continue to come, along with countless requests for Walker to attend camps and schools' junior days, he is making no plans beyond the upcoming Nike Camp in Auburn, Alabama on May 18. He has no specific goals of times or numbers, but says that "being named MVP would be nice."
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