Getting to know Tennessee's class of 2007: No. 9, LB Chris Walker

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Introducing No. 9 in Tennessee’s class of 2007, linebacker Chris Walker.

No, not the Aggie basketball player who taped himself and his friends singing Total Eclipse of the Heart. Thank the heavens for that. And no, not the R&B musician. Or the actor. Or the photographer, or the famous motorcyclist, or any of a host of other Chris Walkers.

Nope. This Chris Walker:

All business

Chris Walker had it all planned out. Step 1: Knock the living snot out of opposing players. Step 2: Wait for the mailbox to fill with scholarship offers from fine educational institutions everywhere seeking the services of snot-knockers. Step 3: Take multiple unofficial visits to said educational institutions both during the summer and during the high school snot-knocking season. Step 4: Use said unofficial visits to said educational institutions to compile a list of those that will be graced with official visits. Step 5: Take said official visits. Step 6: Narrow the list. And step 7: Choose an educational institution to turn into Snot-Knocking U.

Step 1: Snot-Knocking

Walker got the first step out of the way in a hurry. In 2004, as a sophomore at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Tennessee, Walker had 53 total tackles, 19 of which were unassisted and two of which were for a loss. But that was just a prelude to his junior season in 2005 during which he had 83 tackles (34 unassisted and 11 for a loss), four sacks, two interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), and three pass breakups. Christian Brothers does not keep a statistic on how much mucus an opposing team loses during a game, but Walker’s nine forced fumbles is some indication that the amount was not inconsequential.

For his efforts, Walker earned all-state and all-metro honors and four star ratings (and No. 14 position rankings) from both Scout and Rivals. Consider the snot knocked.

Step 2: Empty mailbox filled with scholarship offers

By May, 2006, at least 15 fine, upstanding institutions of higher learning had offered scholarships to Walker, imploring him to become their very own knocker of snot. The mucus enthusiasts included Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and . . . Vanderbilt. Yes, even the ‘Dores love their phlegm.

Step 3: Unofficial visits

With two fists full of offers, Walker got busy. By mid-summer, he had made unofficial visits to Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. He then traveled to Rocky Top to take in Tennessee’s season opener against Cal, and he liked it a lot. Two weeks later, he went to the Florida game, and he liked it so much he almost ditched The Plan right then and there:
 

[T]he visit up there for the Florida game was great. The atmosphere on the campus and in the stadium was just electric. It's rare that you get a chance to see that, to see an SEC game of that magnitude. I loved it.

I'll admit that I got sort of caught up in the emotion and felt like committing right then, but after thinking about it and talking it over I decided that I need to wait a little bit and let things sink in. I've made some commitments to other programs to make some unofficial visits in the next few weeks and I decided that I need to be a man of my word and make those trips.

You gotta love a vicious man with integrity.

On September 30, 2006, Walker went walking in Memphis – for the Tennessee game. After one quick trip to Alabama on October 14, he took a look at LSU – when they came to Knoxville on November 4. The last week of November, it must have looked like somebody vomited up a clown in Walker’s living room as coaches wearing orange (both of the Tennessee and Clemson variety), Purple and Gold, Maize and Blue, and Crimson and White paraded across the foyer.

Step 4: Official visits, ah, forget the stupid plan

By the end of November, Walker had scheduled official visits to Tennessee,  LSU, Alabama, and Clemson (spread out from mid-December through late January), but had pretty much narrowed it down to Tennessee and LSU. Walker scheduled Tennessee as his first official visit and made the trip on December 10, 2006.

This time, he would not escape without giving a verbal commitment to the Vols. Walker cited the academic center, the atmosphere at Neyland Stadium, and the proximity to his home town as reasons for ditching the rest of The Plan and committing on the spot. Mostly though, he was comfortable with the coaching staff, the players, and the community:

The thing that stood out about the visit is how much of a family they are. That is the type of situation I am looking for. Like I said, I am really feeling Tennessee right now and I'm comfortable with the commitment.

This is one of the reasons we don’t like you

Remember when Nick Saban tried to recruit Darris Sawtelle after Sawtelle had enrolled at Tennessee? Yeah, well, this is more of the same. Although Walker had given his verbal commitment to Tennessee on December 10, 2006, Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele attended Walker’s January 16, 2007 basketball game, planted himself next to Walker’s mother, and chatted her up during the game. He hung around afterwards and talked to Walker’s teammates. Saban himself called Walker the next night, whispering sweet temptations in his ear, begging entrance to the home, like a blood-thirsty vampire asking for an invite while trying not to show his fangs on the front porch.

Walker almost fell to the spell, but gained his senses at the last moment and repelled Saban and his minions with garlic and holy water. Again, Alabama, I have only one thing to say to you:

In all, Walker turned down offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Memphis, Miami, Michigan, Vanderbilt, and almost certainly several others.

More numbers, honors, and traits

It’s important to note that as busy as Walker was working The Plan during the summer and fall of 2006, he was still racking up some pretty good numbers on the field. He finished the season with 85 tackles (eight for a loss), three sacks, three forced fumbles (two of which he recovered), and, as a tight end on offense, nine receptions and two touchdowns.

And, of course, there were honors, including all-metro in 2005 and all-conference and all-state in both 2005 and 2006. The Memphis Commercial Appeal named him to its Best of Preps Private School Team, and Walker was a finalist for Tennessee’s Mr. Football.

It’s really too bad I couldn’t find any free video of this guy. If you have access to Rivals, go check out the videos and come back. Range? Yes. Closing speed? Uh-huh. Aggression? Affirmative. He’s both smart and athletic, as he was not only a three-year starter in football (he played both linebacker and tight end) but also a four-year starter in basketball. As a matter of fact, he averaged a double-double as a power forward in 2005.

Most of all, though, Walker just wants to knock the snot out of people:

I’m a real big collision-type guy. That’s what I like most about [being a linebacker] because you can abuse people as much as you want to and get away with it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Chris Walker.

Rocky Top Talk Mnemonic

Walker, Memphis Ranger
Knocking the snot out of opponents since 2004.
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