Walker working hard

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Apr 042004
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

In 2001, Tristan Walker averaged 8 yards per carry during his

senior year at Claremont High School in Claremont, Calif.

Rated as the No. 10 fullback recruit in the nation by

PacWestFootball.com, his 6-foot, 222-pound frame and halfback moves

attracted recruiters from all around the country, including

Colorado and CSU. Walker chose to come to Fort Collins and

impressed head coach Sonny Lubick and his staff right away.

In 2002, the true freshman saw his first action in CSU’s fourth

game of the season against Louisville. Some fans at Hughes Stadium

did not even realize CSU all-time leading rusher Cecil Sapp left

the game and Walker entered, their running style and build were so

similar. He ran four times for 24 yards.

Then: “I broke a tackle and then I ran into a guy and he just

drug me down,” Walker said. “And my ankle just gave out.”

Walker’s hyper-extended ankle would cost him a minimum of three

to four weeks. The CSU coaching staff convinced him to miss the

rest of the season, take a medical redshirt and come back strong

next season.

In 2003, the redshirt freshman found himself in a three-way

battle for the starting running-back job with senior Rahsaan

Sanders and CU transfer Marcus Houston. Walker looked solid in fall

practices, but Sanders got the start in the season opener against

CU.

Walker entered the game late in the first quarter and took a

late pitch from quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt on an option play.

Then: “After I got the pitch from Bradlee, I went down the

sideline and I was looking at (the CU defender),” Walker said. “I

was about to hit him and I planted my knee and he hit my knee.”

He tore his anterior coruscate ligament and missed the entire

season.

In 2004, Walker is back at spring practice, the knee about 85

percent recovered. Rather than letting the injuries get him down,

he believes he has something to prove.

“When we get into the fall, I want to be the starting running

back,” he said. “It’s been a little disappointing, getting injured

in my first game two years in a row, but it just fills me with more

passion to go out there and play and try to be the best.”

Offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said the pace of

Walker’s recovery has surprised him.

“I wasn’t sure he was even going to be back,” Hammerschmidt

said. “When I saw No. 28 out there, I was asking (running backs)

coach (Mick) Delaney, ‘Who’s that guy?’ I didn’t think he was even

healthy again.”

However, Hammerschmidt said he has seen players with great

ability unable to come back from major injuries, especially to the

knee.

“It will be interesting to see once (Walker) starts going in

pads,” Hammerschmidt said. “Some guys have that internal drive and

they can fight through injuries; I hope he’s one of those

guys.”

Walker will once again be in a competition for the starting job.

Houston, Jimmy Green, Uldis Jaunarajs and Adam Hayward, who has

changed positions from safety, are among the competition.

Hammerschmidt said that Green would be the starter if the Rams

played tomorrow, but Green said he knows there is no room for

error.

“The competition makes each player better,” said Green, who

closed out last season starting for the Rams. “It’s better for all

of us.”

Lubick said that he has been impressed with Walker’s

rehabilitation but said he thinks he has to lose about 10

pounds.

“He’ll have to have a good summer,” Lubick said. “There aren’t

going to be any miracles.”

Walker’s roommate, offensive lineman Albert Bimper, said Walker

has a lot of support on the team and veteran players have helped

him realize that his reward will come if he pays his dues.

“He’s had it rough,” Bimper said. “(But) he’s had the leadership

in front of him that’s kept his head straight … and he’s very

mentally strong too.”

PRACTICE NOTES:

Wide receiver Dustin Osborn separated his right shoulder in

practice Friday. Osborn is expected to compete for the starting

wide receiver job opposite David Anderson. The extent of the injury

has not been determined … The Rams conducted a two-hour scrimmage

on Saturday. Lubick said he was impressed with Jaunarajs, Adam

Lancisero, who has moved from linebacker to strong safety, and

cornerback Brandon Cathy, among others … Lubick said the Rams

will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon this

week and take the Easter weekend off.

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