THOMASTON, Ga. — Travon Walker slipped on that cherished white Georgia cap, and the crowd roared.
It was Tuesday night at the Upson-Lee High School Fine Arts Center. Fans and friends, family and admirers gathered to mark the 5-star defensive tackle’s commitment to the Bulldogs. The moment served as a coronation as much as a celebration of Georgia’s continued momentum, a beginning as much as an apparent end of the prospect’s recruiting process. The result felt right.
“I know I would be happy at Georgia,” Walker, the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle for the 2019 class, told DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell during the ceremony. “I want to come back and give back to my community. I’m two hours away [in Athens]. I want to come back.”
There’s a power that comes with watching a favorite son make his community proud.
Walker’s ceremony provided a jovial jolt to a sleepy July night in this town of about 9,000 people, located about a 90-minute drive south of Atlanta. As late afternoon turned to early evening Tuesday, the parking lot outside Upson-Lee High School filled with onlookers prepared to watch Walker make his choice. Excitement lingered in the sticky summer air.
First, a handful of reporters occupied the auditorium. In time, the room gained more life. What began as a small buzz grew into a noticeable electricity minutes before the event’s star came into view.
Eventually, Walker walked onto a stage wearing a white dress shirt. He sat behind a table that included hats for Georgia and Clemson, Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina. By that point, shortly before 7 p.m. local time, he had long known his decision. But the evening’s drama added to the event’s power as a unifying moment that brought many with diverse backgrounds together for a spectacle that will be recalled here for a long time.
Before his announcement, Walker chatted with family members on the stage. It remains to be seen what will come of his football career. It will be up to him to meet the potential so many see in the 6-foot-5, 272-pound athlete who’s rated by the 247Sports composite as the No. 26 overall player for his class. It will be up to him to show the desire and dedication necessary to produce a standout college career on his way possibly to more.
However, no matter the result of his path ahead, Walker and others close to him will forever own what happened Tuesday night. As the player rose from the table seconds after his commitment to Georgia, with that white Bulldogs cap on his head, some in the audience began to bark. Others clapped. Many cheered.
Walker smiled. It was impossible to envision any other outcome.
It’s easy to picture Walker making good on his wish to give back to this place someday.
Not long after all the post-announcement interviews were finished, Walker moved from the stage and gathered with onlookers near the auditorium’s front rows. What followed was a testament to the imprint he has made on this community in his young life.
Walker laughed. He traded hugs. He posed for pictures. A beaming grin rarely left his face.
From this humble town, headlines were made that rippled throughout the college football recruiting world. Walker became another piece of Georgia’s impressive 2019 class, now ranked No. 5 in the country by 247Sports. On this night, the pride found in him and created by his presence was clear.
“I’m going to be 100-percent committed,” Walker told Sentell.
Not long afterward, with the cheers over and the celebration finished, Walker left the auditorium and entered a new existence with a familiar support system close by. He had charted his future course. He had made his pledge to Georgia official, creating wonder about the years ahead.
But his commitment to a community that helped raise him was known long before.