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Deion Walker displays dedication to fight through adversity

Meghan Thomassen | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Next time you crank up David Bedingfield’s “Gotta Get Through This,” think of Deion Walker making the cold trek from his former dorm, Morrissey, to the Gug.

“I listened to that song the most when I needed to get from point A to point B in the cold winters,” Walker said.

But Walker earned his spot as wide receiver with more than just three, long stints in South Bend.

Walker’s time with the Irish has been characterized not only by hard work and dedication, but by camaraderie too. Walker meshes seamlessly with the rest of the senior population.

“Just hanging out and being in the receiver room, with [Michael] Floyd and Golden [Tate] and learning at the same time, you walk away from the meeting and you’re like, ‘Wow, I really learned something from that,’” Walker said.

As for many of the seniors, the coaching transition was difficult for Walker.

“A lot has changed,” Walker said. “I had a bigger role with the old staff, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

Walker and his family were close with former receivers coach Rob Ianello, who is now head football coach at the University of Akron.

“He did a lot of yelling at me,” Walker said.

But Walker said the best way to fight through adversity was working hard, and Ianello’s approach was part of that learning process.

The learning continued as Walker and the team acclimated to the new staff.

“They’re trying to [teach] you,” Walker said. “[They're] trying not to step on anyone’s toes, but at the same time they’re yelling at you to see how you’re going to react in certain situations.”

This year has been a bumpy road because the team came in with such high expectations, Walker said. Even though he hasn’t had any playing time this year, Walker summarized what he saw this season.

“I wouldn’t say that we didn’t live up to those expectations, but we didn’t perform to the best of our abilities,” Walker said.

Walker also noted how the program has remained consistent.

“Both [staffs] pushed for hard work and striving for excellence,” he said.

Walker has tried to match that excellence with initiative on the practice field.

“In my case, it’s been tough because I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to,” Walker said. “Even though I’m not playing, someone needs to get better at practice.”

Excellence and hard work were qualities Walker’s father encouraged while deciding between Notre Dame and Penn State.

“My dad was a teacher,” Walker said. “He pushed academics, and this is probably the best school academically and athletically that you can find in the country.”

Walker’s father has every reason to be proud.

“I have a job offer at a bank in Kansas,” Walker said. “I don’t really want to work right now, but I haven’t really decided.

“My dad tells me every day, ‘That’s why you picked it.’ He’s really excited about me graduating in May.”

Walker has one year of eligibility remaining, and will consider staying if the program decides to keep him.

“If they decide to bring me back, I would definitely stay here,” he said.

For Walker, smaller amounts of playing time didn’t inhibit his instinct to learn as much as he could.

“I’ve had a blast, I mean, it’s cold sometimes, but it’s not that bad,” he said. “College is what you make it, and I had a good time.”

Friendships within the team are stronger than ever, and as he approaches his last game with his friends, Walker talks about how the seniors will commemorate it.

“I have a Mohawk right now, so we can’t shave our heads, but I’m sure we’ll thinking of something,” Walker said.

Closeness with his teammates has been a monumental part of Walker’s time on the team, both on and off the field. “Jonas [Gray] and [Michael] Floyd — we’re the tightest. We always hang out together, everyone hangs out together. It’s a blast.”

Despite the significance of these last few games, the players have stayed focused. “Everything is team-oriented,” Walker said. “[We want to] go to the best bowl game we can go to.”

Beyond this season’s bowl game, Walker also recognizes the importance of his relationships with his teammates.

“They know everything about me; they probably know me more than my parents know me,” Walker said.

Even though Walker now lives off campus, he still enjoys the perks of a college lifestyle.

“I’ve lived in my new apartment all year, and I haven’t cooked yet. I did make scrambled eggs … once,” he said.

Those cold walks may be soon a thing of the past, but Walker maintains the driving dedication he found in David Bedingfield’s hit.

“That [song] made me happy and I walked faster,” Walker said. “That was a good day when I listened to that song.”