Why WSU's Mike Walker is a star recruiter

<b>FOR ANYONE WHO HAS experienced it, the place is an easy sell. But given Pullman's geography, the recruiting trail leading there is a bit different than the rest of the Pac-10. No matter. Over the years -- recent years, in particular -- WSU has done a stellar job of bringing top-flight talent to the Palouse. One shining example why can be found in line coach Mike Walker, whose work in recruiting is as dominating as the brand of defensive tackle that made him a Canadian Football League all-star

Following his senior season at Washington State in 1981, co-captain Mike Walker received the J. Fred Bohler Award for inspiration. It was a portend of things to come.

Fevaea'i Ahmu could have gone anywhere he wanted this past year. He chose Washington State -- in large part because of coach Walker.

"I just felt I had a little more of a connection with coach Walker," Ahmu told Cougfan.com after verbally committing to Washington State. "I felt he could (best) teach me. Coach Walker is definitely a positive there -- his playing defensive tackle. It really seems like he knows the game."

When a recruit asks Walker about his college career at WSU, he can talk about the season where he led the team in sacks and logged 108 tackles from his defensive tackle position. When they ask where he was for the ten years after his collegiate career, he can tell them he played pro ball in the CFL -- where he was a four time all-conference pick. But more than any accomplishment, there's just something about the guy.

"He's just as honest as the day is long," said Robin Pflugrad, recruiting coordinator at Washington State. "Ahmu is a great example of that. Walk took him to his home during his visit. Then they came to my home. And he really felt that honesty through Walker, that great family atmosphere -- that it wasn't just lip service."

"I think everyone says 'family', but I think Walk proves that we live it," said Pflugrad. "(Ahmu) could have gone to Oregon -- He could have gone to Colorado, he could have gone to Arizona. He didn't. And those are three really good programs. And I think that's a real credit to Walk."

As is the long list of players Walker's brought in to the Cougar program. Jeremy Williams chose WSU over Southern Cal and Washington. Deon Burnett was one of California's most recruited running backs who held a slew of offers. Hamza Abdullah turned down scholarship offers from Arizona State and Kansas State. Isaac Brown went with Wazzu over Cal. Jason David is playing in the NFL these days.

A few of Walker's other crimson signees -- Jerome Harrison, Jonathan Smith, Tai Tupai and Dave Minnich.

WHEN WALKER SITS down with a recruit, he talks about why he's at Washington State.

"I think when the recruits hear a true story, they buy into that," said Walker. "As opposed to hearing from someone that didn't go to school there or had experience at the college that they're recruiting to. The main thing though is coming back to Wazzu. I could have settled in Seattle where my wife is from. But she's also a Coug."

"That's helped a lot when I talk to recruits -- especially if they're not from the state of Washington -- when I let them know my own experience of being a Coug. How good the people were, how they made you feel at home, how comfortable I felt. Those where my impressions coming out of Indiana and stepping onto the campus back in '78."

All of this struck a chord with Ahmu.

"We hit it off right off the bat," said Walker. "He's just like Tomasi Kongaika. He's short and strong, he's quick and fast. He's going to be a heck of a player. Our league has either big guys or small guys that dominate, guys that you just can't block. And he's going to be a stud. He's going to be a great player."

And there's another prep defensive tackle Walker brought into the crimson fold this year, one Walker says is not to be overlooked. Years from now, the Cougar Nation may look back on this class as having two great prep defensive tackles, Ahmu and Joseph Townsend (6-4, 265).

"I tell you though, there's another kid -- Joe Townsend, that I got out of San Jose," said Walker. "He's a stud too, and when we get him going... He's just like Jeremy Williams and he's going to get bigger. He's going to be another great player. He's a hidden gem."

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