Georgia inside linebacker Quay Walker (7) during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. Walker was a Green Bay Packers' first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie Miles

Green Bay’s Quay Walker was once ready to leave Georgia, gives testimony to value of trusting Kirby Smart’s system

Kirby Smart might call Quay Walker the next time a talented but impatient player comes to his office seeking a transfer.

“Talk to Quay,” Smart could say, passing the phone over for a conversation with the Green Bay Packers’ first-round pick in the No. 22 slot at the 2022 NFL Draft.

Walker recently explained how well prepared he is to transition into the NFL after playing for Georgia, learning both the intricacies of the game and how to handle adversity.

Of course, there were great Georgia players ahead of him on the depth chart. Other UGA inside linebackers like Tae Crowder and Monty Rice are now in the NFL themselves.

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Walker admitted that at one point he wanted to transfer out of Georgia, only to be talked out of it by Smart and his position coach, Glenn Schumann.

“It humbled me a whole lot; that was my first time facing adversity,” Walker said. “That was hard, to be honest with you, I wanted to leave …

“Coach Schumann helped me a whole lot. If it wasn’t for him, I would have thrown in the towel and just forgot about football, period.”

Walker remembered telling the coaches he wanted to transfer out of Georgia.

“I tried to get in there, they wouldn’t let me, they were like, ‘Nah, we’ll fight it on out and see where we go from there,’ " Walker said. " …. so I second-guessed it.

“I’m glad they did that because of how things turned out my senior year, winning the national championship for my home team, home state.”

Walker said Smart and Schumann explained to him he wasn’t the first talented player to be in a position of not starting quickly in an elite program.

“There were a lot of guys who had been in my shoes when they were at Alabama,” Walker said, referring to Smart’s previous post as the Tide’s defensive coordinator, where he helped Alabama win four national titles and recruited and developed several future NFL stars.

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“You have to think about all the guys (that) just wanted to leave. A lot of guys stayed through and fought their way through and kept their heads down and kept working, and things turned out good for them.

“So I decided to do so, and I’m here today talking to y’all.”

Walker found out quickly during his interviews with different NFL teams how qualified and prepared he was to play in any system.

“A lot of teams were telling me like, ‘you’re not going to do all that that you did at Georgia,’ " Walker said. “We did a whole lot. The things we did (at Georgia) are similar to the things that go on in this NFL, that’s the good thing about it.”

Walker said Packers’ cornerback and former Georgia teammate Eric Stokes sat down with him and Devonte Wyatt to give them an idea of what to expect in Green Bay.

“He said he loved it, but at the same time, he compared it to where I’m from,” Walker said. “He said it was kind of country, there isn’t too much to do, and that’s the perfect thing for me.

“I like that, it’s out of the way of everything, it’s not in the mix, not much going on, it’s a big football town. So it’s pretty good with me.”

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Walker didn’t do many interviews while at Georgia, but it was clear listening to him with the NFL media how much he had grown and matured.

Walker is as good of a representation of how Smart’s culture develops players as any of the other four Georgia players who were first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

“I think it’s an easy transition to me, not easy because things will be different (on the field), but knowing what they accept, and knowing what they want in me,” Walker said.

“Just to hold myself accountable for the team and organization, all of that plays a part, and I think Georgia prepared me a good amount to come in here and be ready.”

Walker described his confidence as “high,” but “not too high.”

“I don’t want to get above myself, I want to keep a level head, stay neutral at all times,” Walker said, repeating a message Smart commonly preaches to his players.

“I’m learning a new defense (and) these are veteran guys I’m playing with, these are grown men, it’s going be different. But it’s still about competing and playing football, and doing what they drafted me to do.”

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