Georgia Football: Quay Walker is Bulldogs’ feel-good story

Dec 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Quay Walker (25) reacts after losing the game to the LSU Tigers in the 2019 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Quay Walker (25) reacts after losing the game to the LSU Tigers in the 2019 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Georgia football looks poised to make a run in 2021. A ferocious defense, matched with superior special teams, and an offense still looking to get multiple five-star players back in the next few weeks, makes for a good national story.

The future seems bright.

Naturally, with team notoriety comes individual notoriety. A bunch of dudes are becoming “household names” — Jordan Davis, JT Daniels, Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson to name just a few.

One name probably not as announced, thus far, is Jaquavian “Quay” Walker. And his story might be the best, so far.

You remember in the movie Hoosiers when Coach Dale was about to be run out of town? They had a public community meeting dedicated to nothing but firing him? His bags were packed. He was a goner. Then, Jimmy Chitwood shows up and says, “I don’t know if it’ll make any change, but I figured it’s time for me to start playing ball.” The crowd erupts, thinking that it is an indictment against the new coach. Then, the star local player says, “But, there’s just one thing… I play, coach stays. He goes, I go.”

Changed the movie. Changed the team and the story.

Crisp County, Ga., is about 45 minutes from where I was born and spent many of my days. Played many golf tournaments and baseball games in that area. When you hit Cordele, you’ve gotten to I-75, where I come from. It is a small town area, with local flavor and pride.

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Quay Walker was a big-time football recruit coming out of Crisp County High in the 2018 class. According to 247Sports, the dude was the No. 2 outside linebacker nationally, No. 31 overall prospect, and the No. 6 recruit in Georgia. Those Crisp County folks knew he would leave and do great things. He is one of them. His successes are their successes.

Big-time football (and basketball) recruits get feted in small communities (I have stories). Their talent is obvious early. When that talent looks “special”, they are treated differently. Walker was no exception, I would imagine.

So, imagine everyone’s surprise when Walker showed up with all that promise and really didn’t “do anything.” Didn’t make that “freshman splash” that elite players make. To be sure, the Georgia Bulldogs were loaded at his position, but it still seemed curious that after two years, we rarely heard his name called. The ubiquitous “I wonder what’s goin’ on with Quay” question was around but muted.

Then, something happened this week. After a few weeks of showing out in 2021, Georgia media day happened, and Kirby Smart and Walker actually addressed that question. It was an insight into development, nurturing, discipline, love, and actuality.

Coach Smart was asked and said these words, “He committed to being excellent and doing what he’s supposed to off the field and on the field, became much more of a student of the game,” Smart said. “He holds people accountable now and this is the guy who wouldn’t do it. Now he’s doing it all…”

When Walker was asked, he said these words, “It was real, real frustrating for me. Playing a new position, having the ability that I have and not really understanding the plays or how I do this or how I should do that, it was very, very frustrating for me.”

Here’s the thing. They both spoke openly about academics and attitude in the early days. Frustration, disappointment, and exasperation. Openly. Now, I know when I speak in front of the media, I choose my words and hedge. If they openly say it was a challenge now, you can bet it was 10 times worse living it. Massive questions. Massive second questioning decisions.

Yet, here we are, in the era of the transfer portal, in the era of instant gratification on steroids, young Quay Walker didn’t transfer because of playing time. He didn’t quit school because classes can be tough and require discipline not associated with the money maker football. He could have gone anywhere. But, he didn’t. He stayed. He worked. He became a leader.

Winning games matters. Literally, billions of dollars move to a winner in college football. So, it definitely matters.

But, when we see a coach talk about the maturation of a young man, his learning that life requires loyalty and dedication to be successful, and we see that young man give himself over to excellence and team, we should stand back and recognize.

College football is a business. But, we can’t lose the humanity in it. Walker’s story is still to be written. I’m sure he wants to graduate and play in the NFL. Time will tell about those things. It’s his life. That young man will choose.

Right now, though, he serves as an example. Stick with it. Be the best you can be, be loyal, and get better daily.

He may not be getting all the splash on a very talented team, but he is an example of what is best about high school and college athletics.

There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of young men and women who entered the portal in 2021, and who are now without scholarships.

Walker isn’t one of them. And his main meal these days is on Saturdays. And, dude is eatin’.

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