Loyalty, family vibe led Walker to Blacksburg

How did I become a Hokie? It started after my ninth grade year of playing varsity football when former offensive line coach Curt Newsome came to my high school and talked to my athletic director about me. The following day of school, my AD told me that there is a school that really likes you. I asked who, and he told me Virginia Tech. I was just a freshman, and I didn’t know much about recruiting at the time, but the Hokies stuck by my side from there on out.

Virginia Tech was the most loyal and faithful school that recruited me throughout high school, and that was one of the main reasons why I came here. It felt like a big family when I took visits here. I just knew it would be the right place for me. My brother went to UVA from 2010-13 and also played football there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play against him, but we all know who would have won anyway!

Being in the same meeting room as guys like Luther Maddy, Woody Baron and Ken Ekanem, I learned a lot not just about my football position, but also life in general. These guys were the upperclassmen, the seniors on our team and the defense that I looked up to. Luther showed me the ropes of playing defensive tackle and taught me different techniques and how to watch film. I appreciate that dearly now that I am a redshirt junior. Woody B. wasn’t much of a talker, but he led by example. How he practiced and how he carried himself was outstanding, and I picked up on those details the more I was around him. Ken Ekanem was a professional in every sense of the word. Ken was a little more of a vocal guy, too. He was always on time, hardworking, very blue collar-like. Sitting back and learning from these guys for three years helped me become who I am today, on and off the field.

Playing in this Lunch Pail Defense for Coach Wiles and Coach Foster has been a blessing. And it goes without saying … getting to play for the legendary Coach Frank Beamer will be something that I will always cherish. I couldn’t have asked for anything more as a Hokie. In 2016, we went through a coaching transition. None of us really knew what to expect, but we bought into the “Hard, Smart, Tough” philosophy from day 1 and never looked back.

This past season, during our last practice before the Belk Bowl, Coach Fuente came to me and said, “In less than 48 hours, this will be your defensive line.” I took that personally and would like to think that I have lived up to that role of being the leader of the d-line throughout 2017. Being more vocal is what I really had to work on, but that came with confidence. It started in January with Colorado circuits, and then through spring ball, then to summer workouts, and now the fall. All the hard work is paying off, and everybody is starting to notice it! To anybody who wants to know what a family is … This is Home!

Ricky Walker

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