EDITOR’S NOTE: This original Quay Walker story continues a special series in partnership with Georgia Farm Bureau profiling homegrown talent from the state of Georgia. To access the other HomeGrown Talent articles please visit the series hub on DawgNation.com.
Let’s rewind a certain timeline all the way to the “Rising Seniors” game in December of 2016. That’s when the Bulldogs had just put their first season with new head coach Kirby Smart in their rearview mirror.
Quay Walker came out of the locker room after practice that afternoon covered in red and black from head to toe. The gear. The hat. The visor. The T-shirt. The slides.
Quay Walker was clad head-to-toe in UGA gear back at the Rising Seniors game back in December of 2016. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation.com)
That was just after his junior season.
It also seemed like his Crisp County teammate Markavious “Big Cat” Bryant was likely to sign with Georgia.
Those two are close. They still are.
That’s pretty much why Walker was trending to UGA that day. He liked the fit there and the Bulldogs were sure pursuing him heavily.
There was a strong chance he could go terrorize SEC quarterbacks with Bryant one day. Just as it had been during their time in Cordele.
But he did not commit to Georgia shortly thereafter. That moment would come about 14 months later. With Auburn and then Nick Saban’s program wedged there in between.
It is another example of what gear in-demand prospects chose to wear often means very little.
Yet in this example, it serves as a reminder about the twists and turns for Walker on his road to major college football in the Southeastern Conference.
Let’s see if we can survey all of those very quickly in another example of DawgNation short attention span theatre.
- Walker grew up a big fan of the Florida Gators. They were always a contender to sign him.
- He saw Bryant make a silent commitment to UGA and then advance both Auburn and LSU past the home state school on National Signing Day in 2017. “Big Kat” wound up signing with Auburn.
- Walker also saw the migration of several of his mentors and trusted coaches at Crisp County, too.
- The Under Armour All-American wound up committing to Alabama. He even filmed a commitment video.
- Walker even saw two of his longtime recruiters at Alabama and Georgia join the staff at Tennessee late in his recruiting process. That was seeing both former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (new head coach) and Kevin Sherrer (OLBs coach and defensive coordinator) now in Knoxville.
- There was a lot of buzz about him flipping to the Vols on National Signing Day in February of 2018.
- He did flip that day from Alabama. But it was to Georgia. He also sent his headgear flying off in a direction that it may or may not have landed just south of the equator that day. That moment has been well-documented up to this point.
- When Walker arrived at Georgia, he was rated as a 5-star OLB by at least one service. Yet when he arrives in Athens, he began practicing at ILB for the Bulldogs.
Did things change a lot here? For sure.
Then they changed again. It seems like they are still changing for Mr. Walker. But he’s now back to where he started from.
“Growing up I wasn’t a Georgia fan,” he said. “But as I got into recruiting and whatnot things changed very fast I will say. You know growing up here and Georgia and whatnot you just get a great feeling being recruited [by Georgia] and you just wouldn’t want to go to any other state and play for them.”
Quay Walker is now at Georgia. Big Kat Bryant is at Auburn. Those two high school All-Americans starred together for Crisp County in high school. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Quay Walker on how he ended up at Georgia
Walker “had his Gs on” back then. He certainly has them on now as he continues to work with a lot of reps at ILB through the first two games at Georgia.
He had that Georgia phase in December of 2016. Then came an Auburn phase.
Walker then stunned a lot of folks when he committed to Alabama in June of 2017 and stayed with that pledge until February of 2018.
“I have connected with Coach [Nick] Saban,” Walker said at the time. “He’s a coach who I’ve built a good relationship with. The same goes with Coach [Derrick] Ansley, Coach [Tosh] Lupoi and Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt. My relationship with them has grown over these past weeks and months.”
Yet as the months clicked off in the 2017 season, he told DawgNation that he was “unsure” about that commitment to Alabama. The Crimson Tide staff was set to undergo a lot of change. Ansley and Pruitt were not going to be around much longer.
That led Walker back to Georgia. When he took a late visit to Georgia for the Kentucky game in 2017, things started to begin to look brighter and brighter for the Bulldogs.
“I’ll just say UGA still (has) a shot,” Walker said in November of 2017.
The Bulldogs would wind up having more than a shot here.
Quay Walker signed with Georgia as the nation’s No. 2 OLB prospect in the Class of 2020. He is now an ILB for the Bulldogs. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
About that hat flip stuff with Quay Walker
This story arc with Walker will have a lot to do with growth.
Everyone expects these young people to have everything figured out with all the cameras and media coverage following their moves. That’s just not reality.
It wasn’t the case here with Walker when he signed in front of the student body at Crisp County.
He picked up the Tennessee hat out of a group that included Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn. He put the Vols hat on, which brought out a full gasp from the whole crowd.
Then he tossed it aside and unzipped his jacket to reveal a Georgia t-shirt. That moment was well-received in his home state.
That was the first time anyone at Crisp County knew of his decision. Crisp County head coach Brad Harber didn’t even know.
“Everybody thought I was gonna go to Tennessee, so I had to do that,” Walker said afterward.
It is by now a worn-out retelling of that day’s events. But it is necessary to measure the growth that Walker has shown now in his second season at UGA.
“To be honest with you, I hate talking about it,” Walker said earlier this month. “But I know it’s going to be something that’s brought up the rest of my life, just about.”
“Looking back on it, I think it was very immature of me doing that, but at the same time, I’m just a kid from a small town that was just happy to be where I was and whatnot. Of course, a lot of people thought I was going to Tennessee, but I still have respect for Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt and everything and to the University of Tennessee.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart noticed that, too.
“Quay has come a long way, but Quay’s got a long ways to go,” Coach Kirby Smart said on Tuesday. “He played like an outside backer in high school, and when you go inside it changes your world, because you go from seeing one thing to seeing everything and you’ve got five linemen that come at you, and things are going sideways, and he struggled some last year, he got frustrated.”
“Then this year, it’s amazing how far he’s come with understanding our defense and being able to pick things up. He’s a really good blitzer. The sky is the limit for him because he’s athletic and big, and he’s come so far, but he has to decide that he wants to be great and work hard every day to put himself in a special category.”
Walker is currently tied for fourth on the team with his eight tackles through two games this season.
Quay Walker is currently tied for third on the Georgia defense in tackles with eight stops so far in 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Georgia’s Homegrown Talent: The DawgNation series