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No. 1 Defensive Recruit Walter Nolen Commits to Texas A&M Football

Jimbo Fisher, Aggies beat out in-state Tennessee for college football's top defensive prospect

It looks like that third visit over the last month was the charm. 

Ahead of Texas A&M's kickoff at home in the marquee matchup of the weekend against Auburn, the future of the Aggie roster got its best news of the recruiting season—Walter Nolen has committed. 

The massive Powell (Tenn.) High School defensive lineman, ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the preseason SI99 rankings for the class of 2022, picked A&M over Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Michigan while on an unofficial visit to College Station.

"I chose Texas A&M because Coach [Jimbo] Fisher has been building a lot of good teams around there," Nolen tells Sports Illustrated. "Seeing how that defense has progressed over the years, it's like 'wow, I can actually be a part of something like that and be a part of a team with the number one defense in the SEC. A team with one of the highest sack totals coming from the defensive line in the SEC.' 

"I feel like that is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

A visit to Texas A&M at the end of July was his first experience in town, and Nolen admittedly was leaning elsewhere at the time. The initial impression helped the Aggies surge to the top of Nolen's recruitment thereafter. Each additional visit built on the Aggie lead in one of the most contested recruitments in the country. 

There was a feel upon arriving in College Station that first time.

"It was just a great trip from start to finish, from the time I stepped off the plane everything was amazing," Nolen says. "Talking to the coaches in person, it stood out to me more than anything else."

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The Aggie recruiting class is set to surge up the rankings with Nolen and others coming on board. The group checked in at No. 9 in SI's updated rankings on Monday

Plenty more is to become of Fisher's latest prospect haul, but the win of Nolen should provide a quick turnaround once he is on campus for good.

"They are getting a hard worker, a well-rounded person," Nolen says. "They are getting someone that, day one when they step on campus, they will be ready to compete and get a championship."

Nolen's name has been associated with elite status since he was an underclassman, through a brief stint at IMG Academy on through a junior season at Cordova (Tenn.) St. Benedict at Auburndale, but he has rarely broken down elements separating him as a player among the nation's best.

"I feel like what sets me apart is how hard I go," he says. "Most people don't go hard like I do. If it came down to it, I'd play on one toe if I had to. I feel like that sets me apart."

Nolen and his family have a trip planned to Tennessee later this month, but he is firm in his commitment to the Aggies and is looking to enjoy the remainder of a recruitment that he is excited to see come to an end.

"I'm very excited," he says about reaching a conclusion. "There's only good things coming from here. Stay tuned until college."

Saturday's Nolen pledge is nonbinding. Recruits can lock in decisions with a National Letter of Intent beginning Dec. 15 during the Early Signing Period. The traditional window opens Feb. 2, 2022.