A two-way starter will garner plenty of attention during the Division 3 state title game Friday morning.
Senior Joe Walker will take to the turf at Camp Randall Stadium with his Green Bay Notre Dame (13-0) teammates at 10 a.m. Friday to compete with Wisconsin Lutheran (11-2) for a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association State Championship. For Walker, who received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin last week, it may not be his last game at Camp Randall.
Walker, an offensive and defensive end for the Tritons, is a star on each side of the ball. In the Tritons multiple set offense, Walker will often line up in-line at tight end, but will also split wide when the team employs multiple receiver formations.
"My coach (Joe Nowak) says, ‘Hey, if you can block we are going to have you block, if you catch you can catch,'" Walker said. "When we practice in high school I never practice wide receiver. I just go out there and do it."
Walker can block, but receiver is where he does the most visible damage to opposing defenses, with 31 receptions for 970 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
"We really don't even throw the ball that much and that is kind of funny, because every time we pass we score, so we don't throw that much because we are always scoring," Walker said.
Walker is pretty sure he will receive an all-state honor when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel All-State team is announced, he is just not sure at what position.
"Our athletic director came up to me and said ‘congratulations you made all-state' and I said, ‘for what?' and he didn't even know," Walker said.
At defensive end, Walker said he has 16 sacks this season and is second on his team in tackles. A two-way starter for three years, Walker said his defensive exploits were more highly regarded during his sophomore and junior seasons.
"I was never really known as a wide receiver, I was more known for defense just getting in the backfield and messing up coaches' game plans," Walker said. "I never really got to prove myself as a wide receiver until the camp when I did so good."
‘The camp' Walker is referring to was a summer football camp at the University of Wisconsin, where Walker turned quite a few heads.
"Actually at the camp I started off as a linebacker," Walker said. "They go, ‘Well what position do you come from Walker?' And I'm like, ‘Well what do you guys want me to play?'"
At first, Walker was placed at outside linebacker.
"I did alright, I'd never played off the line before in my life," Walker said. "Then I go, ‘Coach could I play receiver real quick?' and then I scored like four touchdowns and they were like, ‘OK why don't you stay at wide receiver.'"
After one drill, Wisconsin receivers coach Henry Mason gave Walker one the highest compliments a young pass-catcher could receive.
"He had me do a drill where you stand 10 yards back from the quarterback and every time you catch it you get closer and closer and closer," Walker said. "And I finally dropped one when I was like a foot away and he was like, ‘Yeah, that is probably where Lee Evans is about at right now, so you have pretty good hands.'"
Walker said he set a Wisconsin camp record in the broad jump and in seven-on-seven competition, catching 14 touchdowns in two days. His performance earned the Badgers' interest.
"I guess at that time they definitely wanted to offer me as a walk-on because they didn't know what I was capable of because my junior and sophomore year when I was on varsity I didn't get the ball as much," Walker said. "I started both ways but offensively I didn't make as much plays. This year I'm starting to get the ball more and more so everybody knows what I can do now."
Walker's performance has garnered attention from major Division I schools in the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12. In addition to Wisconsin, Walker has spoken with coaches from Texas Tech and Penn State and said that Northwestern, Minnesota and Kansas State have shown interest. In addition, North Dakota State, a Division II school with plans to move to Division I-AA, has had a scholarship offer on the table since Walker's sophomore year.
Last week, Wisconsin became the first team to offer Walker a major Division I scholarship.
"They just called me about a week ago, they want me to greyshirt," Walker said.
Walker said "it is kind of like a dream" to receiver a scholarship offer from his home state school and he is strongly considering the possibility of grey-shirting. As a greyshirt, Walker would begin his scholarship in Jan. 2005.
"I hadn't even really heard about it until they offered it to me," Walker said. "I never really heard of it and now I read up about it and a lot of schools have been doing it for quite a while now. It is just starting to become a little more popular now. It has its advantages and then again you kind of get anxious to play."
Wisconsin would like Walker to play defense in college.
"Coach Murphy (Wisconsin special teams and outside linebackers coach Brian Murphy) who is recruiting me and offered me a scholarship thinks I would be best at outside linebacker but I think they said something about me playing strong safety too," Walker said.
Walker said he just wants to get on the field, but the possibility of playing receiver still intrigues him. North Dakota State and Texas Tech, for instance, have been unabashedly recruiting him as a receiver.
"It would be awesome to play in Madison but it is just something to take into consideration," Walker said.
More than anything, though, Walker simply wants to play.
"Well I'd like to play wide receiver but then again I'm going to play wherever I can get on the field," Walker said. "Defensively, I would probably want to play a strong safety or something like that where I can make plays on the ball because I think I have that ability to just go get the ball."