TERRE HAUTE —
As a basketball player, Myles Walker was an imposing body for the Indiana State men’s basketball team for two seasons as the Sycamores’ starting center. When playing at his best, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound big man was a load for Missouri Valley Conference foes.
However, Walker’s big frame wasn’t unique in college basketball. He tussled with players his size on a fairly regular basis.
Football, however, is another story. Walker was recruited as much as a defensive end out of high school as he was a basketball center, garnering interest from programs like Oklahoma and Texas, among others.
Recruiting stories during his high school career described Walker as one of the most physically imposing defensive ends available at the time. Size matters on the gridiron, but rarely are 6-8, 250-pound athletes found at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
With one year of athletic eligibility remaining, ISU’s football program is taking a chance that Walker can regain his football mojo and become a force for the Sycamores. Walker signed a football scholarship on Thursday and will play for the Sycamores for one season.
“I’m very excited,” ISU football coach Trent Miles said.
So is Walker, who took pride in bringing a football mentality to the basketball floor.
“I’m highly excited to play with the guys. I’m four years out of football shape, but I want to take that fifth year, play football, and try to make a career out of it,” Walker said.
Walker played both defensive end and tight end in high school and was a three-time Texas All-State player at Antonian College Prep school in San Antonio. He played in the Army All-American Bowl in 2008.
Since Walker is basically a blank slate for Miles’ football program, Miles hasn’t committed to which side of the ball Walker could best be used.
He’ll start with defense first.
“He was really good in high school on defense. We’ll look there first, but we’ll see how he develops. I want to see what he can do at defensive end and tight end,” Miles said.
Walker said he’ll play wherever Miles sees fit, but he admitted that defense was what he enjoyed playing more in high school. If Walker were to end up playing defensive end, he and All-American defensive end Ben Obaseki could form a devastating combo in the ISU defensive line.
“Ben and I had a couple of conversations about that. We talked about how great the defensive line could be. I’m looking forward to it,” Walker said.
Miles said there’s no secret to getting Walker into football shape. There are skill sets that are unique to both sports, but at both positions Walker would be projected to play, timing and footwork would be paramount.
“[Getting ready for football] will have a lot to do with [ISU strength coach] Dave McManus training him for football stuff until we get to camp. A lot of it will involve lifting and that sort of thing. When we get him, we’ll train him on technique,” Miles said. “He’s played football, so it’s not like he’s someone who hasn’t played before.”
Walker is unconcerned that his sojourn into basketball will affect his football aspirations.
“It won’t be that much of a problem. I’ll have pads on, but it won’t change much. I’ve been running hills at Deming Park in this heat. I’ll be ready,” Walker said.
• Other summer signees — Walker is one of several players signed by Miles since fall practice ended in April.
ISU has also signed Cory Fisher, a wide receiver who played at Diablo Valley College in the JUCO ranks last season. Fisher was an All-Golden Gate Conference selection.
Two other offensive lineman were signed. Northern Illinois transfer Lawrence Walker and City College of San Francisco’s Olle Norberg, a native of Stockholm, Sweden. Norberg was an All-Nor Cal Conference selection.
• Lutz update — ISU’s incumbent starter at center — FN Lutz — is making progress after suffering a knee injury on the last play of ISU’s Blue-White scrimmage in April.
“I’m very optimistic. It’s looking great and way ahead of schedule,” said Miles on Lutz’s recovery. “There could be a decision to make to play him or redshirt him as long as there’s no setbacks he’s on schedule. He’s training to play this year.”
• Lee hired — Miles also hired Ronnie Lee to be the Sycamores’ running backs and special teams coach. Lee had most recently been on Minnesota’s staff in 2010 as the Golden Gophers’ co-defensive coordinator. Lee also spent time on coaching staffs at Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado State, among other stops.