Mays Landing (N.J.) Oakcrest three-star outside linebacker/defensive end Dakota Walker was one of the top overall players the South Carolina Gamecocks signed in their class of 2005. Walker, who now is 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, is working extremely hard to prepare for his freshman season in Columbia and is coming in with a positive attitude.
"I am doing everything I can to come in and help the team out in any way I can," Walker said. "I have my own personal trainer and he's also a track coach, so he's helping me a lot with my strength and my speed. We work a lot on the track running the 100-meters and other things, and it has helped me a lot. I've run the 100 in under 11 seconds flat a few times and my 40-time is 4.52. We've also been working on my techniques and watching a lot of film so we can work on my weaknesses."
Walker, who is an honor-roll student, made the trip from New Jersey to Columbia for the Gamecocks' Garnet and Black Game in April and was amazed by what he saw.
"It was crazy down there," he said. "They had like 35,000 people or something crazy and it was just a spring scrimmage. I didn't think that many people were going to show up. I couldn't believe it. It was a great turnout."
Walker, who chose the Gamecocks over schools such as Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Iowa, North Carolina and Syracuse, also had the opportunity to visit with Gamecock co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Tyrone Nix while he was in town.
"I talked with Coach Nix for a long time while I was down there and he seems like a great guy," Walker said. "We were just talking about where I might be able help next year and he really seems like he's excited about everything. He really knows what he's talking about when it comes to schemes and everything and I just can't wait to start playing for him."
Walker believes he brings the necessary skills to the table to make an early impact upon arriving in Columbia.
"I am a very hard worker and the kind of player who's always looking to improve my game," he said. "I am always working to become a complete football player with as few weaknesses as possible. I try to pattern my work ethic after Ray Lewis (all-pro NFL linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens)."
Walker, who isn't sure what number he'll wear yet when he takes the practice field in August, has some specific goals in mind for his debut season.
"The coaches think I can play early, so I want to get down there as soon I can start working out with the team," he said. "If I'm getting quality playing time, then I'd like to make the All-SEC freshmen team or get any type of first-year player awards. But that's if I'm getting quality playing time. If I'm not, then I just want to help the team out any way I can."
Walker has his eye on one team in particular on the Gamecock schedule.
"Tennessee is definitely a game I'm looking forward to," Walker said. "It's just a big game for USC and a big game for me. I feel like I have something to prove against them, so I'm definitely looking forward to that one."
Walker has stayed in touch with several of his fellow Gamecock signees and they all seem to have one common goal.
"I've been talking with guys like Jonathan Hannah, O.J. Murdock, Carlos Thomas, Shea McKeen, and also Nathan Pepper," he said. "We just all want to get there as soon as we can to start playing and start winning. That's what it's all about, just playing and winning. We want to start something great."
Walker, whose nickname is "Diddy", said one game from his high school career stands out above the rest.
"It would have to be our game against Ocean City when me and one of my teammates had 14 tackles apiece," he said. "It was just a regular season game, but it was a big game because we didn't really like that team very much. We just dominated that game from the jump."
While Walker is extremely intense on the playing field, he also has a humorous side off the field.
"Most of my friends know me as a clown because I like to joke around and have fun when the time is right," he said. "When it's time to get serious, then I have no problems with that, but I like to have fun, too, when I can. I also feel like I'm the kind of guy that my friends can come to when they need to and I'll listen to them. Overall, I think I'm a good person."
While most of the other incoming players are arriving in Columbia around July 5, Walker would rather not wait that long.
"I'd like to get down there even sooner than that," he said. "I'm going to try to get there like the last week in June or so because I'm ready to go. Football is like '24/7' for me, and I can't wait to start my Gamecock career."
- Most of USC's 2005 signees will be in Columbia by July 5, the date that the second session of summer school begins. Before then, however, GamecockCentral.com will talk with each and every signee for an in-depth update. This article was free to all users; future interviews will not be. To take advantage of our 7-day free trial, click here.
Other signee articles:
- June 2, McKeen has his mind set on playing early
- May 31, Davis is special on and off the gridiron
- Check the home page for additional signee articles.