Seahawks second-round selection Ken Walker III has an opportunity to become a focal point of the Seahawks offense. Here are five things to know about the 2021 Doak Campbell award and Walter Camp Player of The Year award winner.
1. Pick Up The Phone Baby
The Seattle Seahawks selected Walker III with the No.41 pick in the draft in April; but they had a hard time getting in contact with him to share the news. Walker III missed several calls from the Seahawks on draft night before finally connecting. In an interview with King 5, Walker III discussed what really happened that evening.
"I always have my phone on Do Not Disturb right, so the day comes up and we (were) like everybody is in the house like turn the phone on DND, let's try to make sure it works. I got my family to call my phone, we went over this like five times. It was like pick no.40 I believe, and when I came up, I was just chilling. I looked at my phone, I got four missed calls. I kinda started panicking, so I tried to call back. As I called back, I guess it went to the front office or security or whatever. I'm like "Hey this is Ken Walker you just called me," and it's like, "I'm sorry we don't know who you are" and they just hung up. I'm like what are you saying you just called me. So I called back again and the same thing happened again. I called back a third time, and I saw the Seahawks call back and I was able to answer it and I picked up. Finally, it was a big relief."
Check out episode 1 of The Sound to see the Seahawks front office attempt to get in contact with their new running back.
2. Two-School Touchdown Record Holder
Walker III will go down as one of the greatest football players in Michigan State history, but he got his collegiate start at Wake Forest. The Arlington, Tennessee native by-way-of Memphis committed to the Demon Deacons out of Arlington High, where he played both sides of the ball at any position needed.
In his second game as a freshman, Walker III took a handoff on his own four-yard-line 96 yards for the longest touchdown in Wake Forest history.
In two seasons at Wake Forest, Walker III rushed for 17 touchdowns (13 in 2020). In both seasons he eclipsed 500 yards on the ground, rushing for exactly 579 in each. But Walker III felt limited by Wake Forest's signature slow mesh offense, where he was often used as a decoy to discover the defense's scheme in the Demon Deacons run-pass option based offense.
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 had major ramifications on the Wake Forest team, resulting in Walker III playing in just one game between September and December.
At the conclusion of the season, Walker III entered the portal, receiving one Power 5 offer from Michigan State.
"At Wake, I felt like I wasn't able to showcase all of my skills," Walker said. "I believe I can be versatile. I can cut. I can run downhill. I believe I'm an explosive back."
On October 9 against Rutgers, Walker III took a handoff straight up the gut for a 94-yard touchdown, the longest play from scrimmage in Michigan State history.
3. 19-Hour Drive for Opportunity
Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III has put together quite the college football resume, but he nearly didn't get the chance. The severely-under recruited back out of Arlington High had a hard time getting looks from many programs. Adam Sykes, Walker III's head coach at the time, discussed the struggle with the Washington Post.
"It was a frustrating time for him and for me as well," Sykes said. "He did a good job of not showing it outwardly." The chorus kept coming from college coaches: " 'We like Kenny, but we've already got a guy that's committed we like also,' " Sykes said. Here was a player with a personality of "knowing he's a really good football player but not having to tell people that."
If a player doesn't much self-promote, Sykes said, well then: " 'You're not confident, so you're not the person we're looking for.' " Sykes said, "It's definitely different than it was 15 years ago."
Late in the process, Wake Forest offered a late-stage recruiting visit. Unfortunately, both of Walker III's parents and many others were unavailable. Former Arlington defensive coordinator Andrew Atkins volunteered to make the 19-hour drive for Walker III from Tennessee to North Carolina.
Atkins talked about his decision to volunteer to drive Walker III and how the ride went with the Post.
"Anybody else in my position or our positions would do the same," the coach said. Atkins said, "I mean, he really is kind of quiet, and I'm not far off of that myself," so they would have "a little bit of conversation here and there." He said, "I do remember him talking about how he hadn't seen the Appalachian Mountains before, so he thought that was pretty cool."
4. The Gift Giver
Like many top NCAA athletes across the country, Kenneth Walker III took advantage of the NIL opportunities afforded to star student-athletes. In October, Walker III inked a deal with TrueSleep Mattress, and immediately thought of helping those around him. Walker III arranged for the Michigan State offensive line to be sized for custom pillows, sheets and mattresses to help them get better rest.
The rest is history.
5. Health is Wealth
Long before Kenneth Walker III became one of the most-decorated college running backs in recent years, he nearly lost his opportunity to play football in high school for good.
Leading up to his senior year at Arlington, Walker III went for a doctor visit and was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung. After being told by his doctor that he would never play football again, the family sought a second opinion. This diagnosis led to Walker III being placed on blood thinners, receiving two shots a day throughout the summer before his senior year.
Walker III was allowed to workout, but no physical contact. He took to working out with his dad Kenneth Walker II, taking his future serious enough to be cleared before his first game.
Walker would go on to rush for more than 1400 yards and 27 touchdowns, while missing three games.
Watch Walker III and his family discuss the diagnosis and the process to get back onto the field here.