Friday, January 12, 2007

Walk On... | by Pat

It's now official that Darius Walker will enter the NFL draft and bypass his senior year at Notre Dame. At his press conference yesterday, which you can watch here, Darius made it clear that he plans to move on.

You know, coming to school here and meeting the people, you just feel it. You really do. And I think anyone who has been to Notre Dame or been around Notre Dame or met some of the people here knows what I'm talking about. You feel it. I felt it when I went to the Grotto, even though it was cold I felt it. And I felt it when I spoke with the coaches and the people, and I knew that this definitely was a special place and the right place for me.

I really have had a great time here. This, again, I really couldn't have found a better players than Notre Dame with the tradition here and all of the special people that I've met. And thankfully for me, I've been playing football since I was five years old, started out peewee, a little boy at five. So I know forever my dream was to play pro and to go to the NFL. And thankfully, with the blessing of God, that opportunity has permitted me now.

So I've decided to forego my senior year and to make myself eligible for the NFL Draft. And I definitely want to thank the entire Notre Dame community, their fans for supporting me and being behind me and this team my entire time here. You really can't find a better bunch of fans.
The decision is a big surprise, but as I touched on earlier, it's not a dumb or rash move.

Walker claims in the press conference that he didn't really make up his mind to leave until after the Sugar Bowl, and I'm sure his excellent performance against the tough LSU defense influenced his decision. He likely has a realistic picture of where he will go in the draft, and decided to make the move now rather than wait and be drafted in a similar spot (or lower) next year. My guess is that some team in the middle of the draft will be interested in a smart running back with excellent vision, great hands, strong passing blocking ability, and experience in a pro style offense. Walker has all the makings of a dependable 3rd down back in the NFL a la New England's Kevin Faulk, a player that Weis has used as a pro comparison for Walker in the past.

Walker will leave Notre Dame as its 4th all-time leading rusher with 3,249 yards. His 1,267 rushing yards this year is good for 5th all-time on the single season list (he missed 4th place by a yard). Other marks that Walker will leave in the ND record book include 3rd all-time in career carries (693), 3rd all-time in average yards per game (90.3), 11th all-time in career receptions (109), and 6th all-time in all-purpose yards (4,065).

Darius was a fan favorite from his very first game freshman year, when he was instrumental in beating the Wolverines in a comeback win at home. Wearing the highly regarded number #3 jersey, Walker has played a part in some of the best Irish games from the past few years. Rakes of Mallow captured some of their favorite Walker moments. To those highlights I would add the Georgia Tech game this year, with his go-ahead TD run past cornerback Kenny Scott, and the Pitt game in 2005, when Darius turned a screen pass into a 51-yard touchdown run, a play which signaled the birth of the Charlie Weis era.

I'm disappointed I won't get to wear my "Darius Will Carry Us" shirt to games next year, but we wish him luck and hope to watch him for years to come on Sundays.