When the chance comes around to chat with 4-star DE Zykeivous Walker, it is always a fun reminder.
It starts with the notion the big-time world of college football recruiting still has a few fresh storylines.
Maybe it also a refresher the news cycle doesn’t spin that fast. Or doesn’t need to. These are all unique people that power these decisions. No matter how many times industry rankings sort and filter these young men.
There is a nice array of Walker news which sparks this update, but that doesn’t feel as pertinent as resetting his specific recruiting story.
Where this Schley County standout comes from means a great deal. The fact that he’s inspired by the memory of his late father, too.
Maybe it is because the nationally-rated recruit (No. 156 overall on the 247Sports Composite ratings) doesn’t have an ounce of arrogance to him. It is not lost on Walker that he is a blessed young man.
That’s because he hails from the smallest of counties. Schley County registers on the U.S. Census Bureau website with a population of 5,236 people. That was the 2018 estimate.
He took an official visit to Auburn last weekend. He’ll visit Alabama this weekend. Bryant-Denny Stadium has a capacity of 101,821 fans. It is mind-boggling to note here the Crimson Tide could fit every one of those 5,236 Schley County citizens in there 20 times.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “You really can. Ellaville is small. Now that you mention it, it actually makes me think about it. You could really fit Ellaville in there 20 times.”
If it is a reporter’s job to always bring the most important and interesting material to the reader, then how can the facts he has his last official set to UGA (Texas A&M weekend) and a firm decision timeline (the week of Thanksgiving after that trip) seem more memorable than that?
Zykeivous Walker: Where he really comes from
The scouting profile is also eye-popping here. Not just the story.
- 6 feet, 4.5 inches and 265 pounds
- Size 14 feet
- 83-inch wingspan
- The way he carries those 265 pounds like an SEC power forward
- His prospect ratings carry four times as many stars (4) as the number of stoplights in his town
- Rates as the nation’s No. 9 strong-side DE on the 247Sports Composite ratings
Walker lives only about two or three minutes from that lone red light. He can drive from one side of the county to the other in 10-15 minutes.
What are the odds of one of the nation’s elite recruits coming from the eighth-smallest county in Georgia? They must be very long. Georgia now has high schools with a student population of approximately 3,800 students.
There’s maybe only 30 citizens in Schley for every square mile. The census number for Fulton County in 2010, the largest Georgia county, was 1,730 persons per square mile in 2010.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “We are very small. I’m from a small town. It is a big deal because I’m from a small town, you know, and a lot of people from small towns get counted out. So it means a lot for me to be looked at from a small town. Most schools recruit players from big-time counties and cities and stuff and look over the small county. It means a lot for them to recruit me and look at me coming from Ellaville, Georgia.”
Overlooked? Counted out? When a player looks like Walker and then moves like a true wildcat across the defensive line, he would stand out like a Starbucks in Ellaville. Its population (1,863) is even smaller according to U.S Census Bureau estimates.
Recruits update their officials and decision timelines often in the dusk of the senior seasons, but it just seems different from this young man.
“It means a lot to me for them to take the time out to recruit me,” he said.
His Schley County speech patterns and tones do offer up hints and inflections of Johnson County in 1979. There was another fella with the same last name back then. He will even share his words in a similar manner.
Walker, 19, wants to major in business. He wants to own his own company and take care of his mother Melanie Dupree. He knows she has done a lot for him.
If his football life extends into his 30s professionally, then he’d like to retire her and buy her the requisite home and car that a lot of his peers work towards at this age.
That’s his dream. But not his only well of inspiration.
He plays to honor the memory of his father Lewis David Walker III. Zykeivous lost him when he was eight years old. When you watch him before a game, pay attention.
“Whenever I play, I always pray before I touch that field,” Walker said last year. “Before I go out, I always pray. Then after that, I don’t know if anyone is paying attention but whenever we walk out I always go to the opposite side of where we come out and I kneel and I pray.”
He will take that time to connect to the heavens. Then he looks up.
“I say I am going to do this today for my Dad,” Walker said. “Then when I go out on the field I try to do everything that might make him proud.”
Zykeivous Walker: The not-so-normal recruiting fodder
Walker’s final four schools are Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia. He has worked ahead in his courses to graduate early from Schley County High School in December.
He believes he will be the first Wildcat in history to do so. With that, it seems likely and logical. Mid-year graduates are a relatively new thing.
Players like Walker do not come around that often. Especially in Ellaville.
“There’s really not much to do in Ellaville other than hunt and fish,” he said.
He’s more like the one player out of every 1,730 with the skills good enough to play for one of those four SEC titans. That’s something coming from a high school that will graduate some 82 Wildcats in 2020, too.
That’s it. 82 seniors.
When Kirby Smart flew into Ellaville last month during the Georgia off-week, it would be an interesting conversation to speculate that is now the most famous person to ever visit that town.
Walker felt so. And for those that would rather see a lot of the typical recruiting narratives flow across this page right now, that’s a good attention-grabber.
He hasn’t been to visit Georgia since that Notre Dame game. He was at Auburn last weekend.
“It was a good trip,” he said. “I had a good time. Fellowshipping with the coaches and going around and doing different things. Just having a good time. Enjoying the coaches. I went to the game on Saturday. It was a good game.”
“It was cold, but it was a good game. There are just good people at Auburn. Good people. They treat you well. They make sure you are okay. Good caring people. It was a great visit for me and my family.”
Walker brought his four sisters with him. Plus his mother and his grandmother.
“They were happy to be there and they were all smiling,” he said. “It was a good trip.”
Official visits are different for him given his residence. The nearest airports are about as far away as these schools. Auburn is about 95 minutes away. The drive to Alabama is about 4.5 hours away. That’s an hour closer than Gainesville and the Gators. UGA is three hours by car.
His two brothers, his uncle and his mother will be in Tuscaloosa this weekend. Walker is one of nine siblings. He’s the second-oldest. Good thing those U.S. Census folks don’t visit on the weekends in Schley County.
It might translate into a mini-exodus from Ellaville.
Zykeivous Walker: The normal recruiting fodder
He just really needed to go see them all one more good time.
“The top four schools I have right now are great schools,” he said. “They have great coaches, and a good education going for them. I’m just trying to find the right school which fits me and my family. The school that is going to take care of me and my family and is going to help make me successful off the field. It will help develop me into more of a man. A school where I can be me, be comfortable and like it will be so good of a fit that I won’t even want to come home.”
There’s a Subway and a Main Street Grill near that one stoplight. There’s also a pizza place. It is called “The Pizza Place” of all things. That name just makes sense for Schley County.
Bulldog assistant coach Scott Fountain, the area recruiter for Schley County, contacts him at least two times per week.
“Georgis is probably the best school right now that recruits me as hard or harder than anyone,” he said. “To be honest with you. They recruit me a lot harder than anyone else.”
When Smart landed that helicopter to catch the second half of the Crawford County game, it was a very big deal. It made his night.
“Coach Smart has been the only coach since my recruiting process started to come to my football game,” he said. “That let me know how much they really care about me. I’ve haven’t had another head coach throughout this recruiting process land a helicopter on the football field come see me play. That means a lot to me.”
He also discussed why he will be ready to make his college commitment at the end of this month.
“I will have my decision after my visit on November 23 when I go to the Texas A&M game,” he said. “The Georgia game versus Texas A&M. The next week we are out on Thanksgiving break. We go on Thanksgiving break so I will be committing on Thanksgiving break.”
That’s a new development that has come together of late.
He’s being recruited to play the “5” technique across the defensive front. There is also the potential versatility to bump inside and play the “3” technique as well. Check out his mid-year senior film below.
“I move quicker and faster,” he said of his improvements since his junior year. “I have more violent hands. I’m playing harder and you know of course I weigh more. I’m being more active. My energy level is different.”
Check out my highlight – https://t.co/BdVykhD0c8
— Zykeivous Walker (@Zykeivous10) November 6, 2019