Prep Football

Rensselaer's Walker a role model on and off the football field

2013-11-12T17:00:00Z 2013-11-13T02:19:05Z Rensselaer's Walker a role model on and off the football fieldJim Peters james.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
November 12, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

It's common in smaller towns like Rensselaer, where the community wraps its arms around the high school football team.

Youngsters emulate players, dreaming of being in their spikes one day.

It happened in 2005, when 10-year old Avery Walker was a Bombers fan, watching senior Addrian Frederick intercept a state-best 13 passes.

"He wasn't the biggest guy, but fundamentals make up for that type of stuff," said Walker, just 5-foot-9, 155 pounds himself. "He was a good role model to look up to. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be like him."

Frederick went on to star at Wabash College and is now the strength and conditioning coordinator for Louisville. The legacy continues in Rensselaer, where Walker is picking off passes and little ballers aspire to be No. 31.

"I'll be walking through the store and a kid will say, 'Hey, Avery, big game!''' Walker said. "I was always those kids, watching the stars play. Now being one of those guys for kids, it's really cool. They're paying attention, watching me every moment. I can't let them down."

Walker tops the Bombers in catches (26) and interceptions (four). He also returns punts, covers kickoffs and holds on kicks for Luke Robertson, which he's done since eighth grade. But Walker's myriad on-field exploits only scratches the surface of who he is.

"Avery is a tremendous football player and a great student leader," coach Chris Meeks said. "He puts everything into his academics and athletics, while still giving back to his community. He is a great example for all future Bomber athletes."

The top-ranked student in his class, Walker is part of the Pioneers, a school club that talks to kids about the ills of alcohol and drugs. He helps at the local food pantry and also assists with the Orphan Grain Train program.

"I don't like to stand still," Walker said. "I always like to have something to do. I'm appreciative of everything (the communities do). We need them. They're always backing us and the team is always looking to help and give back."

The field is the only place where Walker does any taking. A starter since he was a sophomore, he has returned three of his pickoffs for touchdowns this season, heading an athletic, ball-hawking defense that has scored 10 TDs.

"Any of the DBs would tell you it's easier to play man coverage when the quarterback is constantly getting swallowed up by our line," Walker said. "They're throwing off balance, off their back foot, getting nothing on it. It's their mentality to not be happy with a stalemate. They want to get in the backfield. They've been causing pressure all year. Our defense struggled at times last year and now they're a staple of our success. It's cool to see."

Hunter Hickman, the Bombers' QB in 2012, also impacted Walker with his tireless work ethic.

"You can't control how big you are, but you can control how strong you get and how mentally prepared you are," he said. "A lot of it is film study. We get to know (teams) better than they know themselves. A lot of it's basically instincts, just reading the offense. My ability to learn on the fly helps a lot. I pick things up fast."

In 2010, Walker was a freshman shivering on the sidelines when the Bombers captured their last sectional title. More likely to attend Purdue than play football at a small college, he's making the most of his senior postseason.

"I'm having the time of my life right now," Walker said.

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