Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Coach talk: Walk-on Von Walker
By Josh Moyer
What kind of player is Penn State getting here in preferred walk-on Von Walker? And what can fans expect?
NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Walker is capable of on the field -- his high school coach at Mill Hall (Pa.) Central Mountain -- and asked what separates him as a player, how he first noticed Walker's ability and when he especially showcased his FBS potential.
He'll likely be a slotback and special-teams player for the Nittany Lions. He played running back, quarterback and linebacker for Central Mountain.
Von Walker, Mill Hall (Pa.) Central Mountain 6-foot, 195 pounds
Central Mountain coach Vinnie Kishbaugh, on what separates Walker from other players: "Athletically, he's probably one of the best kids I've ever seen. He's really a throwback player; he's a hard-nosed player and hits harder than anybody I've seen. We played Tyrone last year, and he hit one kid so hard he folded him in half.
"So, the way he plays the game, he's very special. He's one of those kids who's going to play to the end of the whistle, which is a coach's dream. The other thing is his lateral foot speed, which is probably the best I've seen. We've been going to different camps and we've gotten to see some of the projected best athletes, and he might not have the greatest measurables when it comes to 40 times -- I mean, he had a 4.5 40 -- but when you compare them and watch them compete, Von really blew them away, in my opinion. We're getting away from kids and how they play to looking at what they can do on paper -- and that's a shame, in my opinion."
When you first knew he would be something special: "They moved him up his freshman year and that's when I started to know. I remember having a conversation with him that year saying, 'Listen. If you put in the time and effort here, you can be the best player at your position to come out of this school.' And he's worked the last few years, trying to get better. He does a lot of things on his own to do that, but Von was a special athlete from the very beginning.
"His freshman year, just in practice, you take a 14-year-old kid and he's competing against 18-year-olds. Sometimes that's intimidating, but Von was never intimidated. As soon as he moved up to varsity, he took on that role and didn't look at himself as a ninth-grader. Whatever the coach needed at the time, he jumped in. His freshman year, we were playing Tyrone -- I think it was Game 4 or 5 -- and we waited to get him some varsity playing time. There were two minutes left int he half, we put him in, and he breaks one for like 30 yards. So you knew right away."
When he surprised you or really showcased his ability: "The Bellefonte game his senior season. I think he had 500 total yards of offense himself -- like 300 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. That game alone, in my opinion, showed what he could do. I mean, he's fast but when he's on the field, he has that second gear. He hits the hole so fast and then, once he gets in the clear, he pulls away from people. The other thing is his vision when he's carrying the ball; he sees things and reacts to them quickly.
"I remember watching film earlier and there was a play where he made a cut against the blocking, the direction of the line. And I started to flip out because I forgot the play. I was like, 'Why the hell is this kid doing that?' And then you see the safety peeling down, and he hit the hole hard and took off. So his vision is unbelievable. And he can just run over people, too. In my opinion, he could be a special back, really, at every level."