ATHENS — D’Andre Walker just wants a chance, and he aimed to prove it in Georgia’s “House of Payne” indoor facility with 10 NFL teams looking on Friday.
“It felt great,” said Walker, who underwent sports hernia surgery on Jan. 23 after discovering that the injury cut short what would have been an MVP performance in the SEC Championship Game required a surgical procedure for a return to full strength.
“I got warmed up and was able to do the position drills for the teams,” said Walker, a former team captain who attended UGA’s Pro Day last month but wasn’t quite ready to exhibit his skills. “I was able to show I could move around, and that when it’s time for NFL spring camp, I’ll be ready to go.”
Walker’s workout on Friday, which comes after more than 11 weeks of disciplined rehabilitation, was recorded and sent to all of the NFL teams.
Immediately, it drew the attention of former Seattle Seahawks scout Jim Nagy, who is now the executive director of the Senior Bowl.
In a deep EDGE class, one off-the-radar player with Day 2 talent is @FootballUGA DE/OLB D’Andre Walker. He was one of earliest @seniorbowl invites but hernia surgery knocked him out of the game. @DAndreWalker15 could be a steal for some team. Here is video from today’s workout. pic.twitter.com/vIPh1fvnJI
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 12, 2019
Walker said Friday he appreciated Nagy believing in him, and that it pained him deeply to have to withdraw from the Senior Bowl last January.
“When I found out I had to have surgery, I called Mr. Nagy, personally,” Walker said. “I was about in tears because I know the Senior Bowl is a great opportunity and it meant a lot to me that he believed in me.”
Indeed, Nagy felt Walker should have been starting as a junior.
“D’Andre was a guy, for me, going back to the scouting process at Seattle, you’re putting on tape last year watching (Davin) Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter,” Nagy said, “and to me, 15 (Walker) should have been playing over both of those guys.”
Nagy isn’t the only one with faith in Walker.
NFL.com writer Peter Schrager projected Walker to be selected with the No. 32 overall pick by the New England Patriots.
“Walker burst onto the scene during his senior year in Athens, recording 7.5 sacks and flying all over the field in big games,” Schrager wrote in his NFL.com story. “Never underestimate Bill Belichick’s love of players who were coached by guys he respects. Kirby Smart is one of them. The Pats took a pair of first-rounders out of Georgia a year ago, and they’ll grab another in 2019.”
Walker said he’s scheduled to fly out and visit with the Seattle Seahawks on April 16.
Seattle’s Pete Carroll, like Belichick, has a reputation for having a keen eye for talent.
The 6-foot-2, 252-pound Walker will be eager to impress.
“It doesn’t matter to me where I get drafted, my presence will be felt in the NFL,” Walker told DawgNation. “Whatever my team wants. If I need to gain weight, I could play at 260 or 265, and if I need to drop, I could get down to 245.”
Walker played between 250 and 255 at Georgia, and NFL teams that turn on film of his most recent performance against the Crimson Tide won’t be able to help but be impressed.
Walker was a one-man wrecking crew, making five tackles, with two QB Hurries, a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass break-up in less than three quarters.
Georgia was leading Alabama 28-14 when Walker said he suffered the injury.
Walker has no doubt, “If I would have stayed healthy, we would have won that game.”
Indeed, UGA freshman Brenton Cox replaced Walker and was unable to contain Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts, who took over the game with the threat of Walker’s pass rush absent.
Walker stayed in Athens while rehabbing his injury, the University of Georgia picking up the tab for his surgery while welcoming him to use the facilities while healing.
“When you play here,” Walker said, “you’re a Georgia Bulldog for life.”
Walker led the Bulldogs with 7.5 sacks this season.
Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy