Published: October 20, 2013
Dexter Walker knew he could have and probably should have made a tackle on the most important play of Air Force's most recent game.
But then again, he knows the reason he didn't is because he tried to stick with what makes him special - and he doesn't necessarily want to get away from that.
On a third-and-goal play in the final two minutes and Air Force clinging to a one-point lead, Walker found himself freed up with an open shot at running back Donne Pumphrey. But rather than square up Pumphrey, Walker lunged toward his right arm - which was cradling the ball. He whiffed on the ball, missed the tackle and Pumphrey scored the winning 10-yard touchdown.
"Whenever I get to the ball, I try to strip it out," Walker said. "This last game I missed four tackles, which is unacceptable. Two were because I was going for the strip."
Air Force needs those strips and Walker has shown a knack for producing them. Despite cracking the starting lineup at strong safety just a couple of weeks ago, Walker leads the Falcons with two forced fumbles. He's also recovered one, registered 2.5 tackles-for-loss (tied for third on the team) and has a pair of pass breakups.
"When I'm going to make a tackle the ball just gets bigger," the sophomore said. "I don't know how to explain it, but I see the ball more and more when I go in - especially when someone else holds them up first."
That big-play ability could prove, well, big for Air Force this week with Notre Dame coming to town.
"It's a knack he has," coach Troy Calhoun said. "Getting it out and knowing where the ball is, too. He's got some radar."
Calhoun said Walker is "on a good path, but he's not there yet." In that way, he's no different from the team itself. The game against the Aztecs was the perfect example. Walker had a game-high nine solo tackles, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass - yet he couldn't quite finish with that all-important play.
That's the way things have gone in recent weeks for the Falcons, who have led in the second half in the past three weeks but haven't been able to break a six-game skid.
Walker doesn't plan to break character this week and will again stick with what separates him, even in the face of increased scrutiny with the Irish in town.
"We've got to be focused and not worry about the hype," he said. "At the end of the day it's just another football team."