Rost: Kenneth Walker’s path from underrecruited to high Seahawks draft pick

May 6, 2022, 9:03 AM
Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III...
Kenneth Walker III of the Michigan State Spartans scores a touchdown against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
(Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Newly-drafted Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker – who goes by Ken – is excited to come to Seattle and meet the rest of his fellow rookies during their minicamp on the shores of Lake Washington this weekend.

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While he’s quick to mention how excited he is to get a chance to compete, the reality is that Walker will have a shot to do more than scratch and claw for a third-string role. Because, for all the talent the Seahawks have at running back – and they do have that, with both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny under contract for 2022 – they also enter the season with question marks surrounding the long-term health and availability of both returning veterans. And in a post-Russell Wilson offense that is sure to focus more on balance and physicality than on a finesse pass game, Walker has a chance to make sure Seattle fans become plenty familiar with his name early this season.

No one knows exactly where Walker’s road in Seattle will take him, but you should probably know how the second-round pick got here in the first place.

Walker was a three-star running back out of Tennessee who committed to Wake Forest as a relatively underrecruited player (he was the 154th-ranked running back in his class).

“(Being) underrecruited in high school, you start to doubt yourself that you can play at the next level,” Walker told Seattle Sports’ Jake and Stacy. “But just believing in God and having the support of my parents helped me through all those times.”

That support became especially important when Walker did something that can either catapult or sideline the career of any college player: he entered the transfer portal. The move came after Walker averaged around 579 yards per season over two years with the Demon Deacons.

“When I was at Wake Forest, I felt like that offense wasn’t the best fit for me,” Walker explained. “I felt like I wanted to be in more of a pro-style offense. So that’s when I decided to enter the transfer portal after my sophomore year. For a minute I looked around. And then I finally got to talk to my offensive coaches… and I felt like that was the best fit for me. And when I got there, my teammates made it much easier to transition from one school to another.”

The move paid off. In his single season with Michigan State, Walker had 1,646 yards and 19 combined touchdowns on 263 carries. He won the Doak Walker Award (an honor reserved for the country’s top running back in college football), was a Big Ten co-offensive player of the year, and was a unanimous All-American.

In hindsight, maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise that a team like Seattle, with a head coach who favors a tough run game, was interested in drafting Walker. But when he received the call from general manager John Schneider early in the second round, he was shocked.

“My head was everywhere,” Walker said. “I didn’t know who could take me really. The Seahawks, I was really shocked, because I talked to them during the combine and me and the coach had a zoom meeting, and after that we never really talked much. So, it was a shocker to me, but it was a really exciting time. It’s real cool to be able to play for Pete Carroll.”

Forget the surprise for Walker; it should be no surprise to Seahawks fans that Carroll would be interested in a player like this.

“It’s his explosion,” Brock Huard said of Walker during an interview the Mike Salk Show. “Wait ’til you see this guy. His legs are ginormous. And then it’s his short-area quickness. He can make moves. He’s like a boxer where he can make two or three combinations. He’s not just a one-cut guy; he’s one cut with wiggle. And all of a sudden in the hole, he can shimmy, and he can just explode. And for a passing game that’s going to struggle for explosive plays – DK’s still there, Tyler’s still there, but the QB’s not – the passing game is going to struggle a bit for explosive, touchdown-making plays. This guy hits the crease, he’s gone. You are not going to catch him. … Save for one game, he was the most dominant player in college football offensively this year.”

Walker, who also described himself as an explosive runner, also spoke about getting a welcome message from a current Seahawk after the draft, and described what he does in his free time (hint: it’s a popular old school activity) during his interview with Jake and Stacy. Check it out here.

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