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Pittsburgh game a homecoming for Walls

Sam Werner | Friday, November 13, 2009

Saturday night’s game against No. 8 Pittsburgh is undoubtedly a big game for every member of the Irish squad, but for senior cornerback Darrin Walls, the game will mean just a little bit more.

Walls, a Pittsburgh native, will be playing in his hometown for the first time in his collegiate career. Inundated with ticket requests throughout the week, Walls said he was trying to figure out exactly how many friends and family members would be in attendance Saturday.

“I’m not sure as of now,” Walls said. “I’m estimating around 25.”

For a good number of those friends, it will be the first time they see Walls play.

“It’s real exciting going home and playing in front of some of my family and friends that haven’t seen me play before,” Walls said.

Senior defensive back Raeshon McNeil said that Walls had been talking all week about the chance to play in his hometown.

“His mom’s going to be in the stands, and she hasn’t been out here to see him play. So that will be a big opportunity for him.”

Walls has played in all nine games for the Irish so far this season, and recorded 17 tackles as well as an interception.

Irish coach Charlie Weis said that, as good as Walls has been this season, he expects even more Saturday night.

“I think that this is going to be an exciting game for Darrin,” Weis said. “And I think more than any game than he’s played this year, I think that this is going to be one of those ones where I feel pretty confident that whatever his best is, we’re going to get it.”

In addition to being in familiar territory, Walls said that he is friendly with several players on the Pittsburgh roster. He named senior tight end Dorin Dickerson, sophomore wide receiver Aaron Smith and junior offensive lineman Jason Pinkston as Panther players that he knew.

“We hung out a lot and did camps and stuff,” Walls said.

Walls also said that this is his first time playing in Heinz Field since a high school playoff game his senior year.

What makes this week’s trip even sweeter for Walls is the fact that he missed all of last season for personal reasons. Even though he wasn’t on the team, McNeil said that he kept Walls abreast of everything going on inside the Irish football program.

“I kept in touch with him all the time, kept him up to date on the funny stuff going on in the meeting rooms,” McNeil said. “We’re always clowning in the meeting room, so he definitely missed some classic moments, but he was always talking about how he couldn’t wait to get back.”

Even though it may have taken Walls some time to get back in the swing of Divison I college football, McNeil said he thought the year off ultimately helped his friend.

“Him missing a year kind of brought things into perspective for him,” McNeil said.

As exciting as the trip, home may be, Weis said that Walls is still aware of how important this game was for the team.

“I think that Darrin’s going to be very excited to play in this game,” Weis said. “And I think that that’s a good thing because he’s going to get challenged in this game as well.”

Walls, too said that he was mostly focused on getting a big win this weekend.

“I mean, the coaches, they expect everyone to play well this weekend,” Walls said. “We expect to play well. It’s just another motivational factor that we’re playing against the No. 8 team in the country.”