Bombers high on Walls

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

The rookie pass rusher was asked if he had ever heard of a man nicknamed SWAC, the player he has essentially replaced.

"I've heard a lot of good things about that guy," replied Winnipeg defensive end Gavin Walls, who did not know him by Elfrid Payton, his real name. "I just heard that he was a great pass rusher and would talk a lot in third person -- a pretty funny guy and a good guy on the field.

"I'm just trying to pick up where that guy left off. I heard that he was a good pass rusher and I'm just trying to keep the baton in my hand and continue to progress week in and week out.

"He has the club record? How many did he have?"

Payton, who was granted his release so he could play in the AFL last winter, recorded a Blue Bomber single-season record 22 quarterback sacks in 1993. Payton, who also played for several other CFL teams, had 154 career sacks, the second-most all-time. Walls recorded his first three sacks against the Edmonton Eskimos last Friday.

"Gavin Walls is one of the most outstanding young players I've ever come across," marvelled Bomber head coach Jim Daley. "We knew he was good coming in, but he has far exceeded our expectations. He wants to be a great player. So much of this game is played between the ears. Gavin Walls is as determined a person as I've ever seen and he just loves to play. That's really the bottom line, the determining factor in his success to date.

"Gavin Walls has played every game like he and (defensive end) Tom Canada played the other night -- on a mission. Gavin Walls is an exceptionally motivated person and it's evident."

That could be because he knows, if not for football, he could be mired in a ghetto-type lifestyle back in Hampton, Va., where he grew up.

"There was a lot of stuff to get into," he said, sadness creeping into his voice. "I had a friend who just died the other day. He got murdered, executed. Him and two other friends the other day. It's just something that happens. I don't really know the story. They just got murdered. Shot one time in the head and two times in the chest. So, that's just the way the cookie crumbles."

And, but for football, Walls may have been with them.

"He was a good friend of mine so, ya just never know," said Walls, 25. "It's not gangs, just the survival of the fittest out there on the streets and I'm just glad to be out of there.

"There's a lot of stuff happens in Virginia. There's a lot of trouble just around the corner and I'm just glad to be here, man."

But he will miss his buddy.

"I was sorry," he said. "I try to stay uplifted for him and keep him on my shoulders when I play."

If he keeps this up, Walls should have the type of rookie season that would rival Canada's last year.

"I'm just trying to make a name for myself here," said the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Arkansas product, who is also used extensively on special teams. "I'm still trying to make some minor adjustments getting used to the game, coming off that first yard so, I'm still getting into the swing of it. I've still got a lot more to learn and a lot more to show."


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