Mark Dantonio In the Hunt for Massive Ohio OT Aundrey Walker

Hondo S. Carpenter

Like all of the players he recruits, OL Coach Dan Roushar has Walker’s admiration and respect for the way he has recruited him as a man and not a football player.

Like all of the players he recruits, OL Coach Dan Roushar has Walker’s admiration and respect for the way he has recruited him as a man and not a football player.

 

 

Aundrey Walker is among the best offensive tackles in the nation for the 2011 college football recruiting class. If Webster’s was to define the young man, you would use the word enigma. My youngest child would borrow a line from Shrek and call him an onion with all of his layers. No matter what you call him, don’t use the word football player because this happy and kind gentleman will have a change in personality quickly.

 

“I am not a football player, I am a student,” was how Walker described himself to me when I visited with him recently at Ginn Academy (Glennville) High School in Cleveland. I am not defined by the sport. I will use football to get my degree. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love the game, because I do. I just understand that a degree in this world will get me farther than the game.”

 

Here is a link to a video interview I did with Walker after interviewing him for this article.

 

Using the Shrek analogy may be better than Webster’s because he is the size of the Ogre. He is 6’5 ½” and weighs 356 pounds. When he walks in a room he commands it. He hugs everyone he comes in contact with. The day I met with him it included coaches, secretaries, fellow students and even me. When you see him on the field he dominates. There is no doubt that whatever game he plays in he is the best player. 

 

He was raised in the tough inner city of Cleveland, and watched his father, who is his hero, die when he was fourteen. He has seventeen brothers and sisters and while most young people are thinking about the beach and fun, he concentrates on schoolwork with a 3.6 honors grade point. “I am the key to my family. Me showing up in the classroom ready, homework done, understanding the material means that I am ready for something more. When I get a degree I will be someone,” was how this remarkable young man described his thoughts on school.

 

“I never want to let what is going on around me shape me or tell me who I am. My life has been tough, it has never been easy, but I never let the things around me determine who I am or what I am. I am a student. I am so much more proud of that than playing football. When I get my degree I will be so full of joy. It will guarantee me a future. A future for my family and (Walker pauses to regain his composure emotionally) it will be for my dad,” was his words about who he is.

 

Walker has an offer list longer than the Los Angeles phone book from every major school, conference, and geographic location. No matter, big or small schools, each offer letter brings emotion to this tremendous young man. “When I get an offer from a school I don’t think about how big or small, I don’t think about where or what, I think about how blessed I am. Someone is willing to give me a chance to earn a degree for no cost and all they want from me is to play football at my best. Can you believe that? I can’t help but look at that letter and think of all the kids who never get to go to school because they don’t have the money, and here people are offering me for free. I wish more young people were humble about it. I am not doing these schools a favor, they are doing me one and I am really thankful.”

 

With a long list, one of the top two is Michigan State. Walked explained how Michigan State’s different approach to recruiting is why they are so high on his list. “They came in and spent time with me. Coach Roushar is an incredible human being. He wanted to get to know me as a person. He loves football like I do, but it was about Aundrey the person and not the football player. That is how whatever school I pick is going to get me. Don’t recruit a football player. Recruit a man. I got to know Coach Roushar as a man and I really like him. I can say, of all the schools Michigan State gets it. Coach Narduzzi is the same way. He is a great guy. They come in, they ask about my grades, my family, and we might even talk about football. They care about people at Michigan State.”

 

Caring about people is what Walker thinks is the most important thing in life. “I know what a tough life is, but I am still blessed. Life isn’t about what you want; it is about what you need. I can’t help but love people. With what I have been through, you see life differently. I feel a lot of expectations on me. I feel a lot of people are looking at me. I can’t let them down and I can’t let me down.”

 

Spending time with Walker is one of the most incredibly motivating times a person could have. One of his teammates joked that he is like the preacher and had fun with that. “People need to be encouraged. Life tells people what they can’t do. I guess I want to be that person that tells them what they can do. If I can do it, they can.”

 

Walker has been to MSU and what are his impressions? “Wow, it was amazing. I can’t say enough about the fans. I was there last year for the Iowa game. That was the best crowd I have ever heard or been around. It was at night, and they just were crazy. I was sitting in the stands and at the last second they lost. I hadn’t even committed to them and I was like all upset that we had just lost. I said we and I hadn’t committed, but I already felt like I had. I was a part of Michigan State that night. Those fans, the facilities and everything about the place are just amazing. I loved it.”   

 

Walker talked about the recruiting process in general when he said, “I am sick of coaches coming in here and telling me how many guys they have put in the league. I don’t want to hear that. How many of your players have real degrees is what I ask them. Talk to me about school. Michigan State came in talking with me about all of their programs and what did I want to study. They don’t tell you what to study; they want to know what you want to study. For them, me getting a degree means more than winning. I was like wanting to win something for them.”

 

Walker has some nicknames. At the school they told me that he was a jellybean because he is so sweet inside. They called him a teddy bear. He was described off the field as a gentle giant. He called himself a mama’s boy and his deceased father called him 401K. Not for football, but because he felt like his son getting a degree would insure his future.

 

I have been around a lot of athletes. Many fine young men. I have never met one any finer than Walker. If you see this incredibly talented young man play football, you would be remiss if you thought that was who he is.

 

Aundrey Walker is a great human being and student who happens to play football. He has overcome odds that many would have quit rather than fight and at the end of the day whatever school he picks is the winner.

 

He is an enigma. He does have layers like an onion, but I would just call him a great kid. He would prefer to be called a student. 

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