Troy Walters Interview

The Bootleg sat down with "The Playmaker" to officially launch the unofficial "Troy Walters For Heisman/Biletnikoff Award" campaign. Troy already holds numerous school and conference records and is primed to break more this season. Enjoy what Troy has to say about his Stanford career.

The Bootleg: Could you first tell us the story of how you, your father and Coach Willingham came together, bringing you here to Stanford five years ago? Tyrone has laughed and said he can't remember who found whom first anymore...

Walters: The first time I met Coach Willingham was the summer before my senior year. It was August, and the Vikings were having their summer two-a-days camp in Minnesota. I went up there from Texas, and I was the ball boy for the quarterbacks. That was when I first met Coach Willingham, and there he saw me catch passes for Warren Moon, Andre Ware and Brad Johnson. He knew what I could do there, though this is before he even knew he was going to get the job at Stanford. During Christmas break, I came up to Minnesota to watch the Vikings play, and that was when Coach Willingham had an idea that he might get the coaching job here. Then I sent my dad video tapes of my games throughout my senior year in high school, because he was (an assistant coach) up at Minnesota and I was in Texas. He said the coaches from the Vikings would come by and watch, and Coach Willingham was one of those guys. Then, you know, everything just fell into place.

The Bootleg: Since you have come here to the Farm, what can you say about your personal progress as a football player?

Walters: Coming in, I had the idea that people saw me here as a gift from Coach Willingham, so to speak, since my dad knew Coach Willingham. So, I had a lot to prove from the beginning. Also, when I came here my feet were slow. I ran a 4.6-something. Thanks to (strength coach) Mark Wateska and the strength and conditioning, I'm down to a 4.39. That's one area where I've seen improvement- with my speed, quickness and strength. Each year, I've just gotten better and that's where I am now.

The Bootleg: With the successes you have had, what changes have you seen from opposing defenses and defenders? And how have you adapted to those changes?

Walters: You know, I haven't seen a lot of changes. Most teams that we play have such great athletes, and they are so confident in their defensive backs that they really don't change up a lot. They pretty much leave their guys one-on-one. Their thinking is that they have better athletes than we do. I really haven't seen that many double-coverages because we also have two other good receivers. It's hard for them to just focus on me.

The Bootleg: Over your career you've often gone up against taller defenders, yet you've consistently been able to catch underthrown balls or lob passes. Can you tell us exactly how you get your position against defenders to make those catches?

Walters: I think a lot of it is just instinct. My mentality is that when the ball is in the air, that's my ball, and I try to do everything I can to get it. A lot of it is also just little things you work on in practice. Throughout the years of my playing football, it's just things you've acquired. Such as, if the ball is underthrown you try to slow up a little bit, and then you know it's going to land over you and you speed up at the end. Or, keep running and not give it away with your eyes because the defensive back will look at your eyes. You don't want to have big, bulging eyes because then he knows the ball is near. Just little deceptive things always help.

The Bootleg: Troy, you already hold a host of Stanford season and career receiving records, and you just broke the Pac-10 career receiving record. With the season you are having, you are on pace to break your own single-season receiving yardage record and total over 4,000 career receiving yards. Can you keep this up?

Walters: I hope so, but the number one thing I'm focusing on this season, for the last six games, is just for our team to win. That's my main focus. I don't worry about the numbers; I just worry about wins and losses. I feel that if we continue to win, then my numbers will be right up there. I'm focusing on the team and winning games.

The Bootleg: Have you heard your name mentioned at all this season with respect to the Heisman Trophy?

Walters: No, I haven't.

The Bootleg: Why do you think that is?

Walters: I think that going into the year, people have their minds set on who are the top contenders for the Heisman. You have Warrick and Ron Dayne and all those quarterbacks. It's hard for someone who really wasn't mentioned in the Heisman race to sneak up. I think that's one of the reasons. Also, it always helps to be a team that's in the top 10 or 15 to get exposure. Hopefully by the end of the year, we'll be up as one of the top teams in the country, and that will help.

The Bootleg: Peter Warrick has been the only receiver in the country to really be given serious consideration for the Heisman so far this year. Looking at your numbers versus his, how do you think you measure up?

(Numbers shown to Troy Walters given below)

Games

Receptions

Rec. Yards

Yards/Game

Yards/Catch

TDs

All-Purpose Yards/Game

Walters

5

40

801

160.20

20.03

6

210.40

Warrick

5

36

508

101.60

14.11

7

154.20

Walters: The numbers show that I'm right up there with him, but he's an amazing athlete. I even like watching him when I get a chance- he does some terrific things. He is probably the best player in college football, so even to be mentioned in the same category as him is an honor for me. But you know, I'm not really focused on the individual comparisons and awards. The team is my focus.

The Bootleg: Troy, when you think of past Heisman Trophy winners, what names that you've admired and watched come to your mind first?

Walters: When you say Heisman, I don't think of one particular person. I think of the prestige that comes along with being voted the best player in football, and the tradition that goes along with that. Last year when we went to Notre Dame, we went to the College Football Hall of Fame. They have pictures of all the Heisman winners, and I got to see all the greats- the Bo Jacksons, all those great guys. It is just a tremendous honor. When I think of the Heisman Trophy, I just think of the tradition of a prestigious award.

The Bootleg: Can you tell us why you think you can and will make it in the NFL?

Walters: One reason is my work ethic. I may not have as much talent or size, and I might not be faster than everybody else. But I think I work as hard as anyone else in the country. I feel that hard work will eventually pay off. That's an attribute I have. Another thing is my intelligence. I really have a feel for the game, and that will help when I get in (the NFL). Just my experiences here at Stanford, going against the type athletes that we face in the Pac-10 will all play a factor in helping me to be, hopefully, a good player in the NFL.

The Bootleg: How much has it helped your football intelligence, growing up as a coach's son?

Walters: That's the reason I'm as intelligent as I am- just hanging around my dad, going to all of his games. I was the ball boy when I was younger, so I was on the sideline of the games. I sat in meetings with him. While he was at home watching film, I was just listening to all the terminology and everything that he prepares for before a game. And I've acquired that. Now (wide receivers) Coach Rison and the coaches here do a great job of teaching and getting us ready each week, each game. All those factors have helped me become the person that I am, and the intelligent football player I am.

The Bootleg: Do you have a favorite memory of a single play that you've had here in your four years so far?

Walters: Probably the play that stands out is my redshirt freshman year against UCLA. We were 2-5, and it was right before the half. It was tied up, and Chad (Hutchinson) threw me the ball on the sideline. The way I caught it is hard to explain, but it was an acrobatic catch. I scored, and that kind of fueled the team. We went on to win that game, and went on to win 5 or 6 straight games. That was probably the play I remember because it sparked us and because of where we ended up.

The Bootleg: What are your thoughts on the ups and downs this team has seen from your first season, the Sun Bowl run of '96, to now?

Walters: It's been hard. It's been tough times here in the football program, but I truly believe that these tough times will make men of people. We've become better people because of the tough times. I think eventually we will have success. You don't want to lose, but I think you learn a lot from losing and it helps you in the future. We've learned from last year, and this year we'll be OK.

The Bootleg: Can you help explain how this team beat top 20 teams back-to-back, including pre-season Pac-10 favorite Arizona on the road, yet lost at home to San Jose State?

Walters: There is so much parity in college football today. On any given day, any team can beat anybody else. The Texas game was our first game, and we didn't come out fast or with a lot of energy. That's the same thing that happened with San Jose. Anytime you don't come out with a lot of energy and the other team does, it's tough to beat them. We got behind and things just didn't go our way. We now have to learn that every game we have to come out with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and start fast- or else, it's going to be a long day.

The Bootleg: Do you take a role as a team leader, trying to help motivate people and bring them that energy?

Walters: Definitely. People look up to seniors, especially myself, and they want to know what you're doing. If you're down, they are going to be down. You always try to stay positive and be excited about the game because it's a chance to go out there and have fun. You want people to see you doing that, so that they will follow on.

The Bootleg: What offensive changes in playcalling and philosophy have you seen under the different offensive coordinators- Dana Bible your first two years and now Bill Diedrick?

Walters: My first two years we had the West Coast offense, but it really didn't stretch the field much. It was very simple and basic. It worked occasionally, but now that defenses do so much, we've had to adapt. Now with Coach Diedrick we have a wide-open offense. We throw the ball deep. We line up with five wide receivers, sometimes two quarterbacks in the game. We try to keep the defense off-balance nowadays, and we try to attack them more so than in my first two years.

The Bootleg: How have the different quarterbacks, Chad Hutchinson and Todd Husak, affected the passing game for the team and for you?

Walters: I really only played with Chad for a year when I started- the other year, I didn't play much. Chad threw the ball hard, but Todd is a smart quarterback. He makes up for maybe a lack of arm strength through his intelligence, knowing the offense and running the offense so well. Todd has been fortunate to have three good receivers; Chad only had two, at times. We can really spread the ball around now. But Todd just does a great job of leading the offense, and that's what you want in a quarterback.

The Bootleg: What do you see in the future for Stanford football when you look at the other receivers that will be here after you are gone?

Walters: We're stocked. I'm the only receiver who is graduating this year, so they'll have everybody coming back. DeRonnie Pitts is going to be special- he's already special. Dave Davis has a load of potential, and he's starting to play well. Right there, you have two guys that will be tops in the country. Then you have young guys like Ryan Wells, Caleb Bowman, Tafiti Uso and Luke Powell. That's one position where we're loaded for a long time.

The Bootleg: People have compared Luke Powell to you in quickness and big play potential, as well as size. What do you think of the comparisons, based on what you have seen of the young man in practices?

Walters: We're very similar. He's a little guy, but he's quick and he has good feet and good hands. He'll be a playmaker next year when he gets out there on the field. This time, now, he's learning and just trying to get comfortable with the offense. <smiling> I see myself in him. There are a lot of similarities, and he'll be a special player before he leaves the Farm.

The Bootleg: When you look at the team as a whole, with the young players that will be coming back, what do you see for the future and how can the team be successful?

Walters: We have a lot of skill guys who will be back next year. I've mentioned the receivers, but the running backs will also be loaded. Then we have good quarterbacks, and we have a lot of depth at the line with a lot of younger guys. Offensively speaking, we shouldn't lose a step. Defensively, we'll lose a lot of guys next year, but I have a lot of confidence in the backups and the coaches to get them ready to play. They'll have a good off-season conditioning, and they'll be ready to play next year.

The Bootleg: Was there somebody here when you were young that you looked up to, that helped mold you into a good leader and player?

Walters: There were a number of guys: Marlon Evons, Andre Kirwan, Brian Manning, Damon Dunn and even Mark Harris. All those guys were older when I came here my freshman year. Just watching their work ethic, watching them play, inspired me and really helped me to get to where I am today.

The Bootleg: When you're not playing football, is there a favorite hobby or activity you enjoy?

Walters: <smiling> I like watching TV. I watch a lot of TV. I just lay in my bed and flip through the channels. I don't really watch anything specific, I just keep turning the channel. I also like playing video games and just hanging out with friends.

The Bootleg: Any favorite TV shows?

Walters: You know what? Recently, I've been very involved watching WWF wrestling. I think all those guys on the team during two-a-days got me watching and got me into it. <big grin> Now that's a show I usually watch.

The Bootleg: Any music genre you enjoy listening to?

Walters: I usually enjoy R&B and gospel.

The Bootleg: Favorite movie?

Walters: I liked The Negotiator- that's one that stands out. I haven't been able to see many movies lately, so that might be something I have to do this (bye) weekend.

The Bootleg: Have there been any standout classes that you've enjoyed here at Stanford?

Walters: I took a class last year, Greek Art, and it was a very interesting class. What made it so interesting was Prof. Jody Maxim always related the art to football and sports. It was very interesting and made you appreciate art in a new light.

The Bootleg: This interview is going to reach a lot of fans- not just locally, but all over the country through the internet. Is there anything you would like to say to fans for the remainder of the season?

Walters: Just keep following us. Even though we lost to San Jose State, I feel this is a special team. We're going to do special things this year, and we have a great opportunity coming up against Oregon State. Just stay with us because we'll be alright. We'll be fine.


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