Buford HS (Buford, GA) senior tailback Darius Walker has amassed some heady numbers in his recently concluded senior season. The 5'11" all-world rusher picked up 2,406 yards and 46 touchdowns as he led the way for a perfect 15-0 championship season. The Georgia Class AA title was the third straight for Walker and Buford.
Earlier in the month the Buford senior broke the Georgia state single-season rushing touchdowns record (42) of Peach State legend Herschel Walker - no relation. But the state's single season total touchdowns record of 45 was a final target for Walker to knock down. He entered last Saturday's state championship game in the Georgia Dome tied with Walker and Charles Grant at 45 scores, and the all-state tailback did not break the record until a 35-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"It was great to be able to get the championship and the touchdowns record all in the same game," Walker comments. "Winning our third title in a row - that was even better."
Darius Walker this month has picked up the Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state of Georgia, as well as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Player of the Year. Perhaps the most prestigious honor of all is the recent naming of Walker as a Finalist for the Watkins Award, which is given annually to the top African-American male high school senior scholar-athlete in the country. The Watkins Award recognizes the best combination of elite athletic accomplishments bundled with top-end scholastic record and community involvement.
Stanford fans of course are intimately familiar with the Watkins Award, which has been dominated by Cardinal footballers like no other program's student-athletes. In the last five years, there have been 22 honored Finalists named. Of those 22, a mind-numbing eight have made Stanford their college choice: Jason Evans (2003), Emeka Nnoli (2003), Marcus McCutcheon (2002), Michael Craven (2001), J.R. Lemon (2001), Brandon Royster (2000), Chris Lewis (1999) and Luke Powell (1999). No other school has landed even two Watkins Finalists during that five-year span.
But that does not make Walker a lead pipe cinch for Buddy Teevens and the Stanford Cardinal. In fact, the rumblings from a number of Notre Dame publications in recent weeks have been that the Buford star is leaning the way of the Irish.
"I guess you could say that," responds the #26 running back in the nation according to TheInsiders. "When Coach Willingham came down, he was the first head coach to make an in-home visit. That really showed his interest in me, and he stepped things up with his character and presence. But Stanford and Ohio State are very close behind as my next two. I can honestly see myself at all three schools."
Beyond his top three, Walker says he is also considering USC, Miami, Nebraska, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama. The elite running back recruit has official visits scheduled for Stanford (1/9), USC (1/16) and Notre Dame (1/23).
"I still have my other two visits to figure out," he declares. "Ohio State will probably get one; the other one is up in the air. I know I only have four weekends in January to take all five of my visits, so one of them will probably have to come mid-week."
Cardinal fans have a way of freaking out any time Stanford is not named as a prohibitive leader, so Walker was careful to give The Bootleg his most honest pro's and con's on the Cardinal today.
"The positives are of course the education, which is second to none," he begins. "That is something I'm looking for in my school, as well as my family. I also love the coaches - Coach Kelly and Coach Teevens are both really personnable. The minuses - hmm. Well... I guess the fact that they are out in California, far from home. But that's not a very significant minus."
The numerous colleges courting Darius Walker have had ample opportunities to show their faces in the stands during his December playoff run, including the heavily attended championship game last Saturday. The recruit reports that Ohio State put four coaches in attendance, including head coach Jim Tressel. Florida head man Ron Zook was also in the stands, as well as three Arkansas coaches and some Georgia Tech representation. Stanford had their ace recruiter and Walker family friend, David Kelly, front and center.
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