Washington special teams star Greg Walker will move on to medical school
Washington safety Greg Walker has been the Huskies' best special teams player the past two seasons. He has one year of eligibility remaining but will skip it to move on to medical school.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Alamo Bowl, Washington vs. Baylor, 6 p.m., ESPN
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On the football field the past three years, Washington safety Greg Walker has — to use his own words — usually been tasked with "blowing things up."
Off the field, he's spent his days and nights learning how to put people back together.
A pre-med major who this time a year from now hopes to be deep into medical school, Walker will play his final game for the Huskies on Dec. 29 in the Alamo Bowl against San Antonio.
And when the game kicks off, he'll be on the field somewhere.
A backup safety, Walker is a fixture on kickoff and punt squads, and has done his job so well that he's been named UW's most outstanding special teams player each of the past two seasons.
"Sometimes those guys go unnoticed and you think, 'Oh, he doesn't start on defense,' " said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. "But all the sudden, you add up all the snaps you get on special teams, and that's a lot of snaps. So he's an integral part to what we do."
In fact, Walker says he was in on about 220 snaps on special teams this season — almost two full games' worth of plays.
His exact spot varied. But usually on the kickoffs and punts he was on the far right wing, his job to get down the field as quickly as possible and disrupt the other team's return in as explosive a manner as he could.
"I was pretty good at that," says Walker, a 5-foot-10, 203-pounder from Bellflower, Calif. "I played linebacker in high school. So you go down and blow something up. That's what I did the best. I did a lot of the dirty jobs."
He made nine tackles in those roles. He was also on return teams.
"I think Greg has really taken the role of being a special-teams captain and he understands that's his role and he has really studied the game and is kind of bringing along the younger guys in the meetings," said UW special teams coach Johnny Nansen.
It wasn't necessarily the role Walker came to UW to play, however.
He was a part of former coach Tyrone Willingham's last recruiting class in 2008, redshirting that season.
He earned a starting job as a safety for the first game of the Steve Sarkisian era against Louisiana State in 2009. He missed a couple of tackles that helped lead to LSU touchdowns, however, lost his starting job and never got it back.
"That was difficult for me," he said. "I would say I felt like I could have been given a second chance. But that's the way things played out and I'm not complaining. I'm happy with how blessed I am and I'm all right."
Walker says the recognition for his special teams prowess has helped ease the disappointment over not having a bigger role.
"As I got older I accepted it and did the best job I could," he said. "I feel like I was a special part of the team and people recognized that and I was glad I was recognized and people appreciated it."
He's always been able to see the bigger picture.
Walker is a math minor with his major in pre-med. He hopes to follow his father, who works in obstetrics and gynecology, into a career in medicine.
Walker, who says he's leaning toward orthopedics, was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team this year with a 3.41 grade-point average.
"It was difficult (balancing studying and playing football), especially because I did it in four years and had a major and a minor," he said. "It was really difficult. But I managed my time well and I'm here."
Soon, he will be gone.
Walker could have returned for one more season of football but will instead pursue medical school. He has applied at a number of schools, including UW, UCLA, Brown and Howard, where his father studied.
"It kind of just worked out like that," he said of not returning next season. "I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like I would just come back and play special teams, which I was happy with. But I know I can do something else I really, really want to do. So I just felt like I wanted to get started on my career. I have done what I needed to accomplish here and I had fun."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.
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