Joe Walker originally signed with the University of Wisconsin football team expecting to play linebacker or safety. And he arrived on campus in June believing he would not be on scholarship until January of 2005 due to a greyshirt the coaches placed on him. Just a few months later, his status has changed dramatically. Now he is in fall camp without the greyshirt and is suiting up as a wide receiver.
"Joe initially was going to be a greyshirt for us but we started Joe," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "We had some scholarships available, we had some attrition on our football team, so we were able to bring Joe in."
This is good news for Walker, who wanted to play wide receiver to begin with and petitioned receivers coach Henry Mason for a spot in the depth chart.
"I talked to the coaches and I told them that was what I really wanted to play," Walker said. "I'd play any position, but they were kind of throwing me around at different spots. And I go, ‘well coach that's the spot I would really like to play and if you guys are willing to let me try out then I will definitely work my butt off to try and get that spot.'"
He found out just prior to the start of fall camp that there was a spot at receiver bookmarked for him, thanks in part to his versatility on the field.
"The thing we liked about Joe when we recruited him is he could play a number of positions," Alvarez said. "We thought he could be an outside linebacker, we thought maybe a safety, tight end or wide receiver. We're going to start him at wide receiver because we need a few more legs at wide receiver."
Walker headed to Wisconsin thinking he would greyshirt and play linebacker so he naturally worked out as a linebacker during summer conditioning. He also, however, spent time with the receivers, "just kind of messing around, you know, having fun."
"I worked out, I kind of worked out with the receivers and the linebackers and we just did one-on-ones and stuff like that, I did that," Walker said. "When we did seven-on-seven during camp, I worked with the linebackers, so I did a little bit of both. I probably concentrated a little bit more on linebacker rather than wide receiver."
Walker also had to adjust his personal goals for the season when he learned he would not grayshirt.
"I don't know if I really made concrete goals just because of the fact that I never really knew if I was going to play right away or not," Walker said. "I know they wanted me to play linebacker and I was willing to play any position really but, I guess, now that I'm playing receiver, it's something that I really want to do."
Now the coaches must decide whether or not they will play Walker this season or redshirt him.
"I would guess that it would be a year before Joe will have a chance to hit the field, get rested, give him a chance to mature," Alvarez said at Wisconsin's media day.
"… definitely if not this year, I really want to be playing by next year for sure," Walker said. "I think I have a chance to do that if I work hard enough."
Better to receive
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