Nathan Walker didn’t want this opportunity, at least not this way.
Jared Tew is Walker’s best friend. They are roommates on the road. When Walker saw Tew, Air Force’s starting fullback, break his right fibula and leave Saturday’s game, he said he was heartbroken.
Walker couldn’t think about it for long, because he was Tew’s backup and had to go in the game. Walker rarely came out in the final three quarters at fullback. He should get used to that role, because Tew is out for at least six weeks and Walker is the starter. There isn’t much proven depth behind him.
Walker wanted to play more, without question. He was a great player for Colorado Springs Christian High School, piling up 2,258 yards as a senior, including 435 in one game. He waited for a long time to get a prominent role at Air Force, and now he has it.
“I was sad to see him go down, but any time somebody is called upon to step up, you’ve got to,” Walker said. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting after it.”
Walker’s path to this point wasn’t always smooth. Despite putting up great numbers in high school, he didn’t get many major scholarship offers. Colorado State liked him but offered him preferred walk-on status, not a scholarship. Through his high school career he hadn’t thought about Air Force, even though the Falcons were the closest team to him, because there were no military personnel in his family.
After his senior season of football, Air Force called. Troy Calhoun was the new coach, and he made the short trip to convince Walker to join the Falcons. Calhoun said people at Walker’s high school were adamant that Walker was as good of a person who had ever passed through Colorado Springs Christian.
Walker, without any other great options, decided to go to Air Force.
“It was kind of a no-brainer, that was it,” Walker said. “I didn’t know a lot what I was getting into.”
His career wasn’t always easy. He was on junior varsity as a freshman and didn’t see a snap as a sophomore. He said he considered quitting, but added that every cadet probably thinks of that at some point in his career.
The playing time started coming last year. He played in all 13 games, had 42 carries and a couple of touchdowns. There was more for him this year: 33 carries, 128 yards and four touchdowns in seven games.
“You can’t find a more dependable, trustworthy person, and that carries over to the way he plays,” Calhoun said. “He’s special.”
For Walker to thrive with the Falcons as a hometown hero is pretty unique. The only other player from Colorado on the first- or second-team defense is linebacker Jamil Cooks, from Sierra High School.
“It’s really cool, you’ve got a lot of people around town pulling for you,” Walker said. “It’s a lot of fun and a great opportunity.”
Vs. Northwestern State, 1-5-1
Vs. BYU 7-28-1
at Oklahoma 3-15-0
at Wyoming 6-24-1
vs. Navy 3-16-0
vs. Colorado State 4-11-0
vs. San Diego State 9-29-1