Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Recruiting flashback: Blair Walsh
By David Ching
ATHENS, Ga. -- As bounceback stories go, Blair Walsh’s is not only extreme, but it happened with amazing speed.
Blair Walsh struggled as a senior at Georgia in 2011 but excelled last fall as an NFL rookie.
Walsh, whose draft stock slipped a bit with an erratic senior season at Georgia in 2011, not only returned to the form that made him one of the nation’s top kickers in 2009 and 2010, he exceeded it. As a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings last fall, Walsh enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of any placekicker in NFL history, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors by hitting 35 of 38 field goals -- including 10-for-10 from 50 yards and beyond -- and all 36 of his PATs.
He credits a mechanical change for the turnaround, as his accuracy returned once he slowed his approach to the ball before attempting a field goal. And just like that, Walsh was back to performing like the Lou Groza Award finalist he had been during his college career -- one that started with him ranked as ESPN’s No. 7 kicking prospect when he signed with Georgia in 2008.
Looking back on his experiences as a recruit, Walsh said he settled on becoming a Bulldog early in the process because of the opportunity to play right away since Brandon Coutu’s eligibility expired after the 2007 season. And he took advantage of that chance, becoming the leading scorer in SEC history with 412 career points.
Walsh discussed the decision to attend Georgia and his experiences as a recruit with DawgNation’s David Ching on Monday afternoon. Here are some of his recollections:
Q: Looking back on your experiences as a recruit, what do you remember most about the process?
A: It was pretty quick for me because I started playing high school ball when I was a sophomore. I got my first couple of letters as a sophomore and started talking to colleges junior year. I was committed by February of my junior year, so I sort of never opened up the recruiting process after that. So it was quick for me. I remember that it happened really fast, and I had my sort of trigger school -- Georgia was my trigger school -- and as soon as they offered, I came up here, liked it and committed on the spot.
Q: Who was your first offer from?
A: West Virginia. They handed it to me on signing day my junior year. My coach was like, ‘Hey I got a fax. Here’s your first offer,’ and it was Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia.
Q: How far along into the picture did Georgia enter?
A: Relatively soon after that. I think it was probably late February. I got an offer from Georgia right after signing day and came up here and committed.
Q: You said Georgia was your trigger school. Why was that?
A: My dad and I did a lot of research on schools and where we wanted to go and where I could play right away, which was huge to me. This school just fit the mold completely. And then once you come up here and you see the campus and you see the facilities, the choice is almost made for you, it’s so easy.
Q: Think back on when you commit and you’re excited about Georgia and then what your college experience was like, how has the Georgia that you anticipated matched up with the Georgia you experienced?
A: I didn’t anticipate to have such close relationships with people that I had here. I feel like I know Athens like it’s the back of my hand now, and I’ve only been here for three-and-a-half years. Coming into it, you think all the coaches are going to be nice to you 24/7, and you think everyone’s going to pretty much give you a free pass and that they want you so bad. But you realize quickly you’ve got to prove your worth here, and you have to show them why they recruited you and that they made the right decision.
Q: Was recruiting what you expected it to be like? Do you have a funny story about the process?
A: I had a couple of schools that I expressed a lot of interest in that were not as good as the University of Georgia. They ended up offering me, I think it was six or seven months after I committed here, which I found funny. No crazy stories. A couple of coaches that had already recruited guys in my class kicker-wise came and talked to me, which I thought was strange. Besides that, nothing really crazy.