Lights on or lights out for Walter

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:51 AM ET

CALGARY - Sometimes, professional football isn’t all that different from everyday life.

You’ve gotta pay your dues in order to move up.

Most young players spend the first few seasons of their career trying to make a name for themselves on special teams.

Calgary Stampeders star Jon Cornish did just that as he worked his way towards grabbing the starting running back role.

Rookie ball carrier Matt Walter hopes to follow a similar career path.

Cornish said special teams are the proving grounds.

“I think special teams are a great way to show the team you are willing to do more than just look out for yourself,” Cornish said.

“Special teams aren’t an individual effort. It’s a group of 12 guys who are flying around trying to make plays.

“If you can show what you’re worth there, you have a better chance of making the field on offence and defence.”

Cornish had just 12 yards rushing during his rookie season, but he made 15 special teams tackles.

He said there’s nowhere to hide on kick-coverage teams and hard work stands out.

“If you go out there with the mentality that you’re going to humiliate people if they try to block you, it’s easy to succeed,” Cornish said.

“You don’t have to be the fastest. You don’t have to be the strongest. You just have to be the most tenacious.”

Walter, the U of C Dinos all-time leading rusher, knows he’ll be making more tackles than he is breaking them for the next year or two.

“Being Canadian, being able to perform on special teams is critical,” Walter said.

“Roster spots aren’t there for you to just take. They’re quite established with Cornish and (LaMarcus) Coker.

“For me, it’s a matter of proving I can get it done on special teams.”

The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder said he’s had to prepare differently than he would if he was lining up in the backfield.

Instead of sprinting for daylight as a running back, he straps on his helmet a little tighter and goes out looking to blow someone up.

Creating that all-out, rabid-dog approach is something new for the Bishop O’Byrne grad.

“Running the ball comes naturally to me,” Walter said. “On special teams, you have to be focused and have your head on a swivel.

“You really need to know your assignments. You have to pay attention and know what you’re doing, or you’re going to get crushed.

“But I’m just as willing to go hit someone as anyone else.”

Stamps special teams coach Mark Kilam said Walter has improved since last year when the fifth-round pick attended his first CFL training camp.

“The ultimate judge is when the lights come on, and he knows that,” Kilam said. “He’s worked hard on his techniques and knowing his assignments.

“The thing you get with Matt is he has the physical skillset and the want to do it.

“Now he just has to put it together when the lights come on.”


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