News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 23, 2012

Walker enjoying return to gridiron for Sycamores

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Myles Walker is only in his early 20s, but he knows only too well those pangs of nostalgia that seep to the surface when you no longer play a game you loved to play.

Walker, an all-state football player in Texas, chose to play basketball in college. After two years of junior college, he was Indiana State’s starting center from 2010-12.

But football was never far from Walker’s heart. And unlike most who long to play again, Walker is getting the chance to put on the helmet and pads again.

Walker has one year of athletic eligibility left and he chose to use it by playing one year of football for the Sycamores.

To say Walker is overjoyed to be back on the gridiron would be an understatement. He’s savoring every minute of it. Preseason camp can be a drag for some, but not for big Texan.

“It’s just great to be out here to run again. When I’m out here on the field running, I go as fast as I can. Every single play, every single down,” Walker said.

“It’s amazing to be out here in this weather. It’s a different climate than basketball. You get that [air conditioning] and all the nice luxury. Out here? It’s hot air and you have to work your butt off every down you go.”

Football appeals to Walker’s smashmouth nature more so than basketball did. And at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, Walker can smash with the best of them.

“I like football a whole lot more because I can be physical. In basketball, I try to be too physical and get too many fouls and I have to go sit next to Coach Lou [Gudino] on the bench,” Walker said.

“It’s better for my body out here. I’m used to being physical. I love being physical. That’s my nature.”

Walker isn’t wrong. He wasn’t the most skillful scorer (7.2 career average) for the Sycamores’ basketball team, nor would he ever be described as a finesse player. But Walker excelled in areas that required physical force and tenacity.

Walker was a good rebounder (5 rpg), a solid shot-blocker , and a good-to-excellent defender in the lane when he kept himself out of foul trouble.

His most notable ISU career performance was against Wichita State in a 2011 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal, in which, he held a talent trio of Shockers’ big men under wraps and scored a then-career high 14 points to help ISU to a 61-54 victory.

But for all that he did on the hardwood, Walker almost certainly has a better chance to play at the next level on the gridiron. He was heavily recruited as both a defensive end and tight end out of Antonian Prep in San Antonio. Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were among the schools interested in Walker.

If Walker made it to the NFL, he’d become the first MVC basketball player to play in the NFL since Bradley’s Marcus Pollard played tight end from 1995 to 2008, primarily for the Indianapolis Colts. Bradley, of course, doesn’t have a football program.

The question is where Walker plays. He started preseason camp at defensive end. But as of Tuesday’s practice, Walker had moved to tight end. He will get a crash course in ISU’s offense, and as of now, it appears that’s where Walker’s talent best fits the Sycamores.

“I’d say right now it’s tight end,” said ISU coach Trent Miles, when asked where Walker projects. “We’ve got some guys who have really played well with some experience on defense. I don’t care how talented you are that’s hard to unseat those guys. Myles is a talent, so you have to get him out there.”

Miles lauded Walker, who practiced at tight end for the first time without the benefit of having been in a single offensive meeting.

“He was showing us what he could do on pure ability,” Miles said.

Walker said he’s comfortable on the offensive side of the ball. Among other things, he said his blocking role giving him the physical contact he craves.

“I’m more comfortable on offense right now. I have a more natural feel for offense. I feel comfortable in my stance, I feel comfortable coming off the line,” Walker said.

Meanwhile, Walker joins a growing list of multi-sport athletes, recently past and present, who play football. Bryant Kent (track), Koby Kraemer (baseball) and current punter Lucas Hileman (baseball) are just a few who have worked overtime on the gridiron.

Walker is the first to go from basketball to football. What it’s done for him is to give him two ISU athletic “families” he feels a part of.

His basketball “family” have been enthusiastic supporters of Walker’s football adventure.

“They treat me well. They keep me enthusiastic. They keep me motivated. They want me to go big. They want me to go forward to the next level,” said Walker, who also said that current ISU center Jake Kitchell is the only player he knows of who played high school football.

In the end, Walker’s goal is just the same of that as all of ISU’s football players – to win the MVFC championship. But he’s the only one on the football roster who can speak from experience.

“I want that MVFC ring, just like we got in basketball. I want the football team to get one too,” Walker said.

• Lutz update — Miles said Tuesday that injured center FN Lutz is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a knee injury suffered during the spring Blue-White scrimmage. Lutz suffers ligament damage in his left knee on the last play of the April scrimmage.

“FN is way ahead of schedule. We’re going to see [what his season status will be] when we sit down with the doctors. When he gets back to a certain percentage of strength in that leg, he can return,” Miles said.

Lutz, ISU’s starting center, was a preseason All-MVFC selection.

• Upon further review — Miles watched the film of ISU’s scrimmage on Aug. 17 and it didn’t reveal too many surprises.

“The defense performed really well. They executed their defense well. When they gave up a big play, they responded well to adversity. Offensively, I don’t think we responded as well to adversity,” Miles said.

The caveat for the offense was that several starters didn’t play.

Running back Shakir Bell, tight end Michael Mardis and offensive linemen Adam Masters and Justin Wood all sat out. All of their injuries were deemed minor and Miles said all sat out for precautionary reasons.

“The offense is missing some key components. They haven’t had the same starting offensive line since the first couple of days. It’s always going to look different when Shakir Bell isn’t out there,” Miles said.

n Scrimmage closed to public — Thursday’s final scrimmage will be closed to the public, according to Miles.