HAMILTON - So, who is Chevon Walker anyway?
Other, that is, then some guy in a Ticats’ uniform who has two of the more electrifying touchdown runs in the CFL this season?
Walker can come at you out of nowhere both on and off a football field.
On the field, he’s flash and dash, and gone.
Off the field, he was, to be blunt, close to gone. History. A college football footnote.
Don’t look for him in any NFL draft — he isn’t there. His CFL portfolio consists of four games — all this season with the Ticats.
Last year, he was sitting on a couch in Tampa playing with his infant son. Once the fifth-ranked high school running back in the U.S., Walker was disappearing quickly over the football horizon.
Then, he rips the Roughriders for an 89-yard TD run in the season opener. Just to show it was no fluke, he lit up the jets up on his 4.28 speed over 40 yards in Game 2 when he turned a Henry Burris dump-off into a 95-yard TD.
So, just who is Chevon Walker? And, how did he get to being the biggest thing to hit Hamilton since the invention of the smokestack?
It’s a question that at times Walker still seems to be trying to figure out himself.
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, he came to Ft. Myers with his father when he was just 10. It has been a move that has brought both joy and anguish through a troubled adolescence.
Joy at discovering football. Despair at trying to find his way through life.
“It’s not easy growing up as an African American in a family that isn’t together, I just made a lot of mistakes and I didn’t really have anyone around to tell me I wasn’t doing the right things. I just kept making the same mistakes over and over,” says Walker on Friday, as he prepared for Game 3 of his professional debut — not to mention his first taste of the Argonauts-Ticats rivalry.
“I just have to follow the older guys steps,” he says. It is true of this game; it is true of this season and it is true of his future.
If only there had been “older guys” whose steps he could’ve followed growing up, perhaps his path in life, and pro football, would have had fewer ruts.
There was never any doubt about his athletic potential. He was the first player to commit to the Florida Gators in 2006 — thrilled at going to one of the premier programs in his home state. But coach Urban Meyer released him for “personal reasons” as a redshirt freshman.
He’s been timed in 10.51 over 100 metres — which is about how fast he got out of town, ending up at Eastern Illinois University. That lasted two seasons, and 691 yards and three TDs, before coach head coach Bob Spoo turfed him and two other players for breaking club rules.
“I just never had that family figure growing up to show me what was right with my mom in Jamaica. My dad was here but he was always busy working. He wasn’t very strict so during the day it was pretty much do what you want.”
So, there were all the usual urban temptations. And, Walker admits, he made some ill-advised decisions that got him in trouble in school and with his coaches.
“I got into trouble over and over. And you don’t get too far when you do that,” he says.
Actually it got him to Souix Falls, where he finished his collegiate career with 14 touchdowns in 13 games.
“I was young. It’s all a learning process. I think I’ve learned I have to be accountable. It’s time to be a man.”
The opportunity to do that as a professional football player was frighteningly close to eluding him. With nobody interested, he spent last year working out and went to an open tryout in Lakeland, Fl., where Hamilton general manager Bob O’Billovich decided to roll the dice.
Not that anyone not named Chevon expected much. Martell Mallet was expected to carry the load at tailback. But then fate, which had never been an ally, wrapped a fatherly arm around Walker’s shoulder. Mallet tore an Achilles. Avon Cobourne was having second and third thoughts about playing.
“I was the next guy in line,” says Walker, now 322 combined receiving and rushing yards, and three touchdowns, later.
“It’s a blessing just to be here because I sat home last year and didn’t get to play at all. I had a new baby, I’ve got two boys now, and I kind of realized it was time for me to pull my weight. I worked hard. It all paid off.”
He used up his “second” chance somewhere between Florida and Souix Falls. Reality suggests this is his last chance to revive a lost career. Now 24, now with a family of his own, perhaps at last he has figured out who he is, and how to get where he wants to go.
“Now I feel I can control my destiny so long as I do the right thing and stay on track,” says Walker. “I’m in the spotlight and you can’t do dumb sh--t because it’ll come back and bite you in the ass. You gotta mind your Ps and Qs.”
EIBEN EXPECTS A 'WAR'
Kevin Eiben has the key to survival in this Argos-Ticats rivalry: “Stay off the bottom of the pile. A lot of things can get grabbed under there,” Eiben said, laughing, Friday.
This is Eiben’s 12th season but the veteran linebacker’s first experiencing this rivalry from the Hamilton bench after signing as a free agent.
“It’s going to be nice not to get spit on ... and not get booed running onto the field,” he said, laughing. “I love this game. I’ve been playing it on the opposite side for a long time and now it’ll be nice to have fans supporting me at Ivor Wynne.”
With the Ticats looking to rebound after two losses to start the season, there will be a sense of urgency. Toronto, meantime, is intent on building on a win last weekend.
“It’s always a huge rivalry. I’m surprised if nobody gets kicked out of the game. There’s usually a fight, there’s usually a brawl. We don’t like one and another. That’s the way its been for 90 or 100 years,” Eiben said. “After the game we’ll go have a beer. But during the game it’s a war.”