[Vandal] For Idaho's Walker, "Sky's The Limit"

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Fri Jul 30 09:05:10 PDT 2021


>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoThursday, July 29, 2021
For Idaho's Walker, "Sky's The Limit"
Decorated Vandal linebacker burst into FCS spotlight in 2019
By Colton Clark
SPOKANE — When Tre Walker entered the University of Idaho’s football program as a true freshman in 2018, he almost immediately assumed a role as captain of his rookie class.
By the time the next spring rolled around, Walker had blossomed into a “leader of the whole team,” Vandals coach Paul Petrino recalled.“You could see it toward the end of his freshman year, but more so the spring after,” Petrino continued of Idaho’s superstar junior middle linebacker. “That’s when you really saw how talented he was. He did it through hard work, and got bigger and stronger.”
Now, Walker is widely considered one of the top overall players in the Football Championship Subdivision.
It begs the question: Just how much higher can he climb?
Petrino said the “sky is the limit” for Walker, an All-American who was named the Big Sky’s preseason defensive MVP on Sunday during events around the conference’s media day.
Walker appeared in each of Idaho’s 11 games as a freshman, primarily as a reserve inside linebacker who exhibited a high ceiling.But at the time, it wasn’t a given that he’d develop into the play-disrupting force he is today, a smash-mouth hitter who’s scary fast for his position too.
After earning a starting nod in 2019, Walker demonstrated his abilities with a staggering 138 total tackles — good for No. 6 in single-season Idaho history.
That season thrust Walker into the FCS spotlight, making him a favorite among fans who have been spoiled lately by exceptional linebacker play at the school.
A year later, Walker made another significant stride, becoming the most decorated Idaho player in recent history.
He was tabbed a unanimous first-team all-conference performer and landed on five All-America teams after Idaho’s shortened spring season, during which he appeared in four of six games because of COVID-19 exposure protocols.
Walker led the Big Sky in tackles per game at 13.5 and further proved the point that there isn’t a more respected player among these Vandals.
“People gravitate toward him,” Petrino said. “He’s always been a leader. When he became more dominant, then everyone else (outside the program) started to see it. Leadership is part of his DNA.”
It didn’t hurt that Walker hit a growth spurt after his freshman year, bulking up about 15 pounds.
“Throughout high school, I kinda stayed at the same size,” said Walker, now listed at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. “We have a great strength and conditioning coach (Jake Scharnhorst) who helped me get bigger, faster, stronger.”
He added of his development process: “It was about getting experience in college and getting comfortable and mature in the program, and being around the guys, spending a year to build my confidence to step into a leadership role as far as the entire defense.”
Walker is up to 233 tackles on his career, with potentially two more seasons to play — he’s unsure as of now whether he’ll accept an extra year of eligibility, granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.
The all-time program record for career tackles belongs to Sam Merriman, who accumulated 519 from 1979-82. Should Walker decide to stick around for another two years, it’s a legitimate possibility he surpasses that mark.
At the least, he’d probably end up at No. 2.
Walker’s play no doubt has attracted the attention of pro scouts.
“(Walker) was outstanding in the spring,” NFL draft analyst Ryan Roberts posted on Twitter earlier this month. “Really physical and consistent. Nice zone drops. Not a ton of length but kid has a good sense of spacing and processing. Outstanding production on FCS level. Will be an interesting player to watch.”
Having seen Walker grow firsthand, Petrino hasn’t been surprised by the steady flood of accolades.
“He has great speed and great natural instincts,” the ninth-year coach said. “He has a chance to be really special.”
Walker said his drive comes from his youth days and the example set by his mother, Brandy James, who’d “consistently work three or four jobs.” Her perseverance “instilled a foundation of hard work in me,” Walker said.
“She taught me how to grind and hustle for things I want in life ... chase every dream that I set,” he said. “I use what she taught me in everything I do.”
So Walker has fixed his sights on setting up a future for himself that relates to his passion. Thus far, he’s on the right track.
Walker’s family moved around a bit for job opportunities, eventually settling in his hometown of Dos Palos, Calif., where he spent two high school seasons before another move, to Fresno.
Walker registered 1,000 yards as a junior running back at Dos Palos High School, then posted a 140-tackle senior campaign at Fresno Central.
“Football was a goal, but I never really knew, like, Division I,” he said. “It wasn’t expected. It was more the love for the game that my dad (Albert Walker) instilled in me.
“Keep playing, and it can take you as far as you need to go in life. I just loved the game and wanted to keep playing, but I’d say my junior year is when I started thinking about my future, college-wise.”
Petrino tested the anchor of his defense at running back this spring, and a few times, Walker displayed the same impressive burst that has made him such a threat to opposing ballcarriers. He rushed for 26 yards on six attempts, with a long of 14.
Considering Walker’s linebacking prowess, Petrino hasn’t decided if that’ll continue.
“I’d hate to ever jeopardize his future by having something happen,” Petrino said. “He’s awesome back there. I’d love to do it, but we’ll wait and see.”
NIL Opportunities
Being the Vandals’ leader, Walker most likely would be a business’s first look for a name, image and likeness offer.He said he’s thought about it, but has not “reached out to anybody yet.”
“It’s a new way to make revenue as a college athlete, so I’m hoping for an opportunity,” Walker said.Petrino said the Vandals had a meeting with Big Sky officials about NIL earlier this week.
“We’re trying to teach them everything we can, and hopefully they use every opportunity they can,” he said. “I think it’s great, however they can use it to help themselves and their families.”


Robie G. Russell
  Attorney at Law
   (206) 621-2102

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