Do you know where Ellaville is? There’s a young man from that part of the state who is doing his part to put Schley County on the map.
Or at least the recruiting map.
That’s a part of the Peach State where eyebrows raise if the phonetics shank off the goalposts. Those Wildcats rhyme Schley with “hi” and not “weigh.”
Trot out the latter and it is instant you-are-not-from-around-here-huh with that.
It just might one day be the spot that DawgNation knows as the home of Zykeivous Walker. That’s what the Bulldog coaching staff hopes for. Walker told DawgNation this week that UGA recruits him harder than any other program at the moment.
That seems Smart.
4-star DE Zykeivous Walker feels that no school is recruiting him harder right now than the Georgia Bulldogs. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Walker will already describe his relationship with the Georgia coach in a unique way.
“I like coach Smart,” he said. “He has some good swagger on him. Yes, sir. It is just like the way he carries his self and the way he talks to you. Once he talks to you, he talks to you like he has known you forever.”
Walker is in Metro Atlanta this week as part of the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association All-Star event with the South squad.
That game has moved to Alpharetta this week and it has established a new 5-star threshold for events as far as the setup goes.
What’s in Schley County aside from the young fella that the 247Sports Composite pegs as the nation’s No. 6 OLB prospect?
“A lot of dirt roads,” Walker said. “The only thing you can do in Schley County is ride dirt roads, go fishing and play football and basketball in the backyards.”
We could go down a few paved roads and state the obvious like his 83-inch wingspan, his size-14 feet and the way he carries 260 pounds like all 5,010 of Schley’s citizens (per the 2010 census) could squeeze into a lower section of Sanford Stadium.
Schley is known for the former Georgia governor it was named for. But when I think of Schley, there are two things that will now come to my mind.
- A tiny little hamlet of roughly 5,000 people has somehow produced a player that rates as the nation’s No. 142 overall prospect for the 2020 class.
- This highly-rated player somehow seems underrated when sizing him up physically. But he also already shows a lot of polish in a media setting. He stands out among his peers in the way he conducts a conversation the same way he stands out on Friday evening coming off the bus.
A player with a purpose: Zykeivous Walker
Walker wants to major in business. He wants to own his own company one day and also take care of his mother Melanie Dupree.
He relays that she has done a lot for him. Walker freely thanks her for that.
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.
It is by no means a firm thing, but Zykeivous Walker said he would like to make his college decision right at the start of his senior season. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
That’s his dream.
It is a common mindset, but with Walker, he has an additional source of inspiration.
He plays football to honor the memory of his father Lewis David Walker III.
Zykeivous lost his father when he was eight years old. When you watch him before a game, he goes along on his own circuit.
“Whenever I play, I always pray before I touch that field,” he said. “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.”
Walker will take that time to connect to the heavens. Then he will look 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.”
His father played basketball and football when he was in high school. When checking out the Walker highlight reel for 2018, we can find a lot that any coach, family member or any former player will appreciate.
He will be the first college athlete in his family. Look for him to be ready to enroll early in January of 2020.
What is Zykeivous Walker looking for with his choice?
His first offer came from South Carolina. He felt “glowed up” that day. It was a very good day. He also appreciates the fact he’s being recruited by Florida.
He said when he was eight years old, one of his best friends was a Gator. So he became quite familiar with that program and maybe even that chomp.
“I want to go somewhere where I know I’m going to get playing time and I just want to go somewhere that feels like home,” Walker said. “Where I fit in. The coaches treat me well and it is somewhere I can get a good education.”
If he’s being honest, he relays that there are some schools that do already provide that Schley County backyard feeling. It is not an extended list.
“Georgia,” he said. “Florida. South Carolina. LSU. Alabama. Yeah, that’s about it.”
We really should not expect a kid that basically just has dirt roads and backyards in his town to share a Top 15 there, right?
How does Georgia recruit Zykevious Walker?
“I’ve been to Georgia more than anywhere else,” Walker said, noting that he made at least 2-3 trips to Athens over the last few months. “It is a nice school. When I went to Florida, it was nice. I had a great time at all these other schools.”
Zykeivous Walker has been to UGA several times this year, including for at least 2-3 games this season. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Georgia special teams coach Scott Fountain is his area recruiter. He’s been after Walker for a long time now.
“I really want to find answers to everything when I go to Georgia or any school,” he said. “Mainly I went to Georgia because they had a game or something. But it is nice in Athens. It is a great place to be I’m telling you.”
He feels like a wanted man in the 2020 class.
“I feel like I could commit at any time,” Walker said. “They are waiting on me. I can tell.”
The Bulldogs have a recruiting approach that would rhyme with his county seat: Sly.
“Every time I go up there I have at least one coach who will be like ‘So when are you going to come home?’ when I am there,” Walker said. “I feel like I can commit at any time.”
The other uncommon things about Zykeivous Walker
We’ve reached the part of the blog where the genesis of his first name might be of some reading interest, but there are more items to consider.
“I just always want to first thank the man above,” he said in a nod to his faith. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be at this point in my life today.”
Zykeivous Walker said that Georgia coach Kirby Smart has some “good swagger” to him. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Remember that part about being impressive in a conversation? That’s Walker. Don’t judge him by his “Fortnite” T-shirt or his modest 2-star skills at that game.
“I’m a humble kid,” he said. “I just grind and work hard every day. My mom, she raised me the right way. She raised me to be the type of kid I should be. I don’t get in no trouble. I just stay in my books and stick to sports. Then I just try to be good to people and be great to everyone in my family.”
He carries an impressive level of self-awareness with those 260 pounds.
When asked about his game, he kick the tires hard on what he can and cannot do. He wishes he was faster. Maybe that is because he remembers what it was like when he was younger and not a defensive line prospect.
“A strength for me right now is I just come off the edge and mainly just bull rush people and throw them off of me,” he said.
It works. He was named “Defensive Player of the Year” for his GHSA region. That plan led to 10.5 sacks as a junior. He had 14.5 stops for losses and even flashed his all-around athleticism with a touchdown catch.
But he’s aware of his limitations and his to-do list. It is a pretty neat about such a highly-rated player.
“My weakness right now is my quickness,” he said. “I am going to work on my quickness a little bit more. Other than that, that’s pretty much the main thing I want to work on right now. That’s my speed and my quickness.”
That self-assessment plus the notion he already weighs 260 pounds as a high school junior might lend itself to playing the strong-side defensive end spot in college.
Yet Georgia assistant Dan Lanning points to the “Jack” position in the base 3-4 front for the program.
“He tells me to keep working,” Walker said. “He wants to use me as that “Jack” coming off the edge and just kill people.”
It sounds like he’s looking for a few more things from his options: 1) Learn about all the coaching staffs which recruit him a little bit more; 2) Make sure he fits in with the team; 3) Find a program where he will get a lot of playing time and not have to sit for two years before he sees the field.
Why such an interesting first name?
He describes his playing mentality with the simplicity of someone who doesn’t deal with too many stoplights around his town.
“I’m aggressive and I mean business when I touch the field,” Walker said. “There’s no friends out there. We are just going at it.”
Let’s not forget that uncommon first name. Why Zykeivous?
“I really think my mom just wanted my name and for me to be different,” he said. “So she just picked Zykeivous. I actually like it because I am the only one in my school with a name like that.”
He’s probably the only guy in any school with a name like that. Even those towns with 500,000 or more students in their city limits.
Mrs. Dupree could’ve named her son Zykeivous or a litany of other first names. Fred. Joe. Sky. Maybe even Herschel.
He’d still be different. That’s the thinking here. Especially given the man it does seem like he is already growing up to be.
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