The Green Bay Packers' pre-draft emphasis on upgrading their defense continued on Friday when they worked out Pierre Walters, a two-time Football Championship Subdivision All-America defensive end from Eastern Illinois, Scout.com's Adam Caplan reported.
Walters said he was worked out by Packers assistant director of college scouting Shaun Herock at his high school in Forest Park, Ill.
"It went very well, especially considering the surface I was running on," Walters told Packer Report on Sunday morning. "It wasn't the best grass and it was a little muddy. I remember him saying he was impressed by my footwork, especially given the terrain. I feel I did very well."
Walters is an intriguing prospect. At 6-foot-5 and 261 pounds, he could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Linebacker drills, in fact, were what Herock put Walters through on Friday. But, because of his height, some 3-4 teams see him growing into a defensive end. Walters joked that he "likes to eat" and, in time, could add the 25 or 30 pounds or so required to play end.
He said he played in the low to mid-270s during his senior season, in which he was a second-team All-American after posting 4.5 sacks, five quarterback hurries and 16.5 tackles for loss.
"I can always gain weight," he said. "Just in case I do go to a team and do have to make that switch to linebacker, I want to stay a little lighter. I haven't lost any of my strength."
Walters is the kind of likable, intelligent, hard-working player that Packers general manager Ted Thompson likes as a developmental player. Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber has a seventh-round grade on Walters.
Walters wound up at Eastern Illinois — the school that produced Tony Romo — because his grades coming out of high school scared away bigger schools.
"Everybody has a lot of maturing to do after high school, myself included," he said.
Walters had to sit out his first year at Eastern to get his grades in order and land a football scholarship.
"I didn't think about anything else," he said.
That focus served him well. Not only did he get his scholarship, but he graduated in December with a degree in sociology.
On the field, Walters blossomed into a three-year starter. In 2006, he had team highs of six sacks and 15 tackles for loss despite not starting two games because of an ankle injury. In 2007, he was a third-team All-American after posting four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Last season, he again was a dominant force, despite being slowed by an ankle injury that required surgery after the season.
With how things turned out on and off the field, Walters considers it a blessing being forced to sit out the 2004 season to focus on his grades.
"Oh, I couldn't even begin to tell you," he said. "There was a point in my life that I didn't think I was ever going to play football again. I wasn't even thinking about the NFL. I was just trying to play here at Eastern. But one thing I did, I just set short-term goals and tried to knock them down one at a time."
Walters says his "football smarts" separate him from other prospects. He also pointed to his work ethic and toughness, having missed only two games with the ankle injury. Plus, he's not the kind of guy to get into trouble.
"I haven't even had a speeding ticket," he said.
Steuber said Walters, who has a 40-yard time of 4.7 seconds and has done 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press, has "intriguing measurables and ability."
"He's versatile and can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up," Steuber said. "He plays with good leverage for a man of his stature and uses his hands extremely well. He doesn't have a large repertoire of moves and relies on his raw talent rather than his technique."
In a span of five years, Walters has gone from wondering if he'd ever play football again to being the first Eastern Illinois player to be drafted since Chris Watson (third round, 1999, Denver). It's an amazing turnaround for a humble player that is starting to gain a lot of attention around the league.
"Every time I think about it, I get goosebumps," he said. "Just from sitting back and watching the draft in previous years, you're like, ‘Wow, it must take so much to get there.' And it does. To be in the mix in everything with the possibility of my name being called, it's a great honor to me. It speaks to my work ethic on how far I've come."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport