Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry offer the first dive into the impressive background and recruiting story of All-American LB Jalon Walker from North Carolina.
Jalon Walker is a linebacker who rattles teeth as one of the most impressive LB prospects in the 2022 class.
But here’s the twist. The future Dr. Walker aspires to straighen teeth and maybe put them back in, too. Walker is a junior in high school and already knows he will be an orthodontist one day.
“That’s my plan,” Jalon Walker said. “Knock as many teeth out as I can and live through that and tell a new story another day about puting one of those guy’s teeth back in for him. That’s the dream.”
That’s not just a cool trait to drop in an interview. The 6-foot-2.5, 220-pound junior is already job shadowing dentists and orthodoniststs in his community when he’s not playing basketball or getting ready for spring football in 2021.
“He’s always had a passion to be a dentist,” his father Curtis Walker said. “I knew early on he just always had a vision to do so. He had a fascination with teeth and has always wanted to be one.”
That degree track would go human biology major and then to dentistry to orthodontics. That’s his vision for his life way after football. He poured himself into that before he really even took off in football.
Imagine that. That’s a pretty powerful thing to hear a young person with their feet firmly planted where they probably even shouldn’t be right now. But they are.
To put it simply, he comes across as one of the most accountable athletes this correspondent has ever come across. If Jalon Walker was a stock or a company, it would be one worth investing in.
He will play basketball and practice football this winter and early spring. Due to the pandemic, the North Carolina varsity season will take place in the winter and spring. His high school AD and trainers gave only a few athletes at his school the green light to play and practice those sports at the same time.
Walker will do that, maintain his stellar grades and also work a part-time job. Walker works for Chick-Fil-A in his spare time. It is all part of preparing to put his dreams together at a very young age.
He’s a marvel for his age, but we can still report he is a normal human teenager.
“I can vouch for my wife that keeping his room clean is one of the things she has to struggle with him with,” his father said. “Keeping that room clean is an ordeal for a Mom and her son. But I can tell you, if that is one of the really big things we have to worry about with him, well then we are going to be okay.”
That’s pretty much the ideal archetype for the student-athlete crowd. Yet where this prospect profile gets interesting is where Mr. Walker will check all the boxes and then fill in some improvised ones.
- Carries a 4.0 grade-point average in honors classes and is seen as a leader in his school community. He is set to be a midyear graduate in January of 2021.
- Ranks as the nation’s No. 4 OLB and No. 46 overall prospect for 2022 (247Sports Composite)
- Under Armour All-American Game selection for 2022
- Multi-sport athletic background includes some good work on the hardwood. Walker had three dunks in games as a sophomore and blocked 80 shots.
- Has scored touchdowns and been a playmaker at WR for Salisbury High (Salisbury, NC) as well
- His father, Curtis Walker, is the head football coach at NCAA Division II Catawba in Salisbury.
- Walker runs track and will compete and place well in the triple jump and long jump. He placed second in the 100 meters in his only track meet as a sophomore and won the long and triple jump.
- He won a dunk contest at a pep rally as a freshman in 2018. He’s an effective post because of his frame and leaping ability. He cleared a 6-foot-3 football dummy back in November with a leap.
- According to the Salisbury Post, he had 121 tackles in 2019. He had eight tackles for loss, eight hurries, six pass deflections, three forced fumbles, two interceptions (one pick-6) and two sacks.
- He’s being recruited at ILB and OLB. “I have a good solid 6-foot-4 wingspan on me and I will run a good solid 4.5 flat in the 40,” he said. “I’m being recruited to play both. Just depends on the schemes we are in and what packages we would be running at that time.”
- Walker came in at No. 4 for 2022 on the first DawgNation Before the Hedges “top targets” list for the 2022 recruiting cycle.
He’d actually been inside Sanford before as a fan. That’s when his Dad was coaching for a Coastal Carolina team that faced UGA in 2011. Georgia won 59-0 that day, but he was in the stands.
“I was pretty young but I do remember a great atmosphere,” he said. “I also do remember, funny as it may sound, pointing out the dog in the dog house, too.”
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Breaking down the college options
The athleticism is there to be an edge defender in college. If not the frame. The ideal spot looks like an ILB at any of those six fine programs. He’ll be able to rush the passer and excel in coverage at that position.
He wasn’t going to let the COVID-19 limits alter what he needed to see in 2020. He visited UNC for a game this year and was in the stands for the ACC Championship between Clemson and Notre Dame in Charlotte.
“Just trying to make the best decision I can,” he said. “Not trying to force anything and then regret the decision later. I’d hate to de-commit from a university I really liked at the time after another university came and piqued my interest as well. Just trying to make the best of what I need to see even with this COVID-19 deal before I make my final decision.”
The plan is to make his decision in his junior year. He does not aim to stress about any recruiting or big visits during his senior season. He also saw Clemson and North Carolina this year before COVID-19 hit.
His father provides a good framework. He was a former college LB who once had 25 tackles in a game. Then he was an assistant at Coastal Carolina and East Carolina. He’s been the head coach at his alma mater, Catawba, since 2012.
That allows him to seek what the recruiting process should be from both sides of the relationship.
“It is Jalon’s decision but as parents were are looking for the things that are most important for us and that is for Jalon to grow as a person as well as a football player,” his father said. “Then the best place for him to attain his major to pursue how he wants to be an orthodontist. As parents, we feel those three things will best to able to assist Jalon as to the best place for him to go. Because it is his decision first to figure out those best things which will allow him to grow.”
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Jalon Walker is a mighty impressive Class of 2022 All-American LB prospect from North Carolina. (Jalon Walker/Special)
Jalon Walker: What is he looking for in a college fit?
The big criteria here: Relationships.
“Those go a long way with me and my family,” he said. “I know my parents would like to send me off with somebody I can trust and they can trust that will hold me accountable for my actions or any wrongdoings and give me credit when I do something great. I want to know the coaches well if I would be playing in their defense and have the ability to play for them. I’d have to be in a room with 12 other linebackers and might not get the chance to play. But in my eyes I will work as hard as I can to play no matter how many guys are in the room.
He made a priority to walk around Athens on that December visit.
“I wanted to take in what it would look like as a college town on the weekend,” he said. “Great atmosphere. Lots of love in the community for football.”
He took that picture from the bridge in that above tweet. It meant something to him, he said.
“I was very impressed by that,” he said. “At a young age, not realizing how big that stadium was and then now seeing it on my own as a much older young man. Imagining myself playing in such a large stadium was a very blessed and thankful moment. Seeing I have the opportunity to play at such a great university and a great program and play in front of 93,000 fans.”
Walker will be a tough pull. North Carolina was his first offer, but the Clemson Tigers also loom large here. HIs local paper, The Salisbury Post, published a report that included the perception the Tigers were seen as the perceived favorite.
There’s a relationship there between Walker and former 5-star K.J. Henry. Henry just completed his redshirt sophomore season in 2020. Both of their fathers have coached together. K.J.’s father was once the defensive coordinator for Walker at Catawba.
Clemson was one of his first offers, too. Walker was one of their first offers to any Class of 2022 prospect.
What does Jalon Walker think about Georgia?
When that Vanderbilt game was cancelled, his family still deemed it important enough to still take that trip to check out on one of his contending schools.
Walker’s father played for the Graham High Red Devils when he was growing up in North Carolina. That was the same school Wake Forest transfer QB Jamie Newman attended, too. The colors and logo scheme are quite similar to that of the Georgia Bulldogs.
“I did dream of going to Georgia when I was a high school kid when we made that trip this past weekend,” Curtis Walker said last month. “But our trip this past weekend was all for Jalon Walker. Making sure he had the opportunity to see more of the things he needs to see to make this very tough decision.”
Relationships are key here. Jalon Walker is developing a great connection to the UGA staff.
“You know I like the whole program at the University of Georgia,” he said. “The whole coaching staff is great. You know when my dad grew up, his dream school was Georgia. I really liked Georgia before I knew that. A great program. A great atmosphere. I’ve watched many games. They’ve let out many great players to the NFL. It is a great prestige program that could help me make it and make it on to the next level.”
He knows about Nakobe Dean, Monty Rice and Roquan Smith at that LB position of late at UGA.
“Coach [Glenn] Schumann and coach [Dan] Lanning do produce great linebackers over the years,” Jalon Walker said in December. “I see it every single year. Right now I know for a fact they have two semifinalists for The Butkus Award winners at linebacker. So that’s very impressive to me from that one linebacker core.”
Walker is being recruited by both of those staff members. But he speaks to Schumann the most.
‘But I do know in certain situations in certain games that I can go and transition to outside ‘backer to inside ‘backer.”
Kirby Smart has also spent some time recruiting Walker.
“I enjoy talking to coach Smart,” he said. “He thinks very highly of me and as much as everything he has on his plate to do he finds time to talk to Jalon Walker. I really appreciate that. So I appreciate all the time he has that he has given up to recruit me. He’s giving me the message that not only is [Georgia] a perfect fit for a football program for me but it is a university that can transition you to be a better man and a better person in life. He lets me know that the academic side will take you a long way with a degree from the University of Georgia.”
He knows that he is a priority.
“I do feel that heavy love from Georgia and I do feel they match that interest from the other programs in my top six,” he said. “So I really think highly of them as well.”
Walker came in among the top 10 ideal prospects for UGA in the first edition of the weekly Before the Hedges “top targets” list. “Hedges” streams live at 8 p.m. every Wednesday night on DawgNation’s Facebook and YouTube channels. His 2019 sophomore highlight reel shows why below.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)