ATHENS — Jalon Walker should have been wearing a visor while standing behind the podium conducting a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The rising sophomore linebacker channeled his inner Kirby Smart when asked about the opportunity Georgia football has to become the first team since 1936 Minnesota to win a third straight championship.
“It would be a great historical feat, and I know it hasn’t happened in a long time,” Walker said, politely acknowledging the question. “To have that opportunity before us, we won’t take it for granted.”
It was a textbook response, but then Walker — son of former Division II South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year Curtis Walker — said something that Smart himself might soon repeat.
“Our goal here is to make history every day,” Walker said. “Making history every day is what we plan on.
“That history was just made at today’s practice, and tomorrow we will try to make history at the next team event. It’s an opportunity for us to seize.”
Walker is currently seizing an opportunity himself, back on the practice field after undergoing labrum surgery and missing spring drills.
“I feel great,” Walker said, “I feel like I have a brand-new shoulder.”
It has led to Walker getting opportunities at inside linebacker and outside linebacker, giving the Georgia defense even more diversity and flexibility.
“I think versatility is the new name of the game,” Walker said. “I love being able to play both ….. being inside backer gives me the opportunity to play on first and second down, and when it comes to that outside backer role, being able to play on third down as well is great.
“Rushing the passer is another strong suit of my game. It’s another chance for me to thrive on the field.”
Walker proved that on the biggest stage of them all, coming on in relief of an injured Chaz Chambliss against Ohio State and recording 3 QB pressures.
Walker followed up with 4 QB pressures and a sack in the 65-7 win over TCU in the CFP Championship Game.
“I feel like I made the most strides going through the mental game,” Walker said of his freshman campaign.
“I had the opportunity last year to get the experience of playing — not many freshmen get that opportunity.
“Being out in spring, I improved the mental aspect of the game even more, and now going into fall camp things are in a better perspective.”
Walker even seemed to take Scrimmage One in stride last Saturday, even though the heat index soared to 106 degrees — and was likely even hotter at field level in Sanford Stadium.
“I personally feel like the hard times make us better,” Walker said. “It was hot, but hot is not an excuse here.
“We have a certain standard we uphold, and I feel that the scrimmage we had was a scrimmage for us to grow off of.”
Indeed, Kirby Smart couldn’t have said it any better.