Erik Walden Plans Life Beyond Middle Tennessee
Now, the senior defensive lineman is looking forward to his final five regular season games and his pending graduation in December.
Graduating with a degree in physical education, Walden has plans that go beyond finishing out his senior season.
"I'd love to have a chance to play in the NFL," says Walden. "But if that doesn't happen, I'll graduate in December, and then go to grad school and hopefully go back home and coach at my high school."
Originally from Dublin, Georgia, Walden helped lead Dublin High School to the state title game in 2002. He also holds the school's single-season sacks record, piling up 19 during his senior year.
In his final year of playing college football, Walden feels that his adventure is almost complete.
"I sat out the first year I was here," he says. "My freshman year I was just trying to get my foot out there. I slumped the next year and then last year I just tried to put it all together and it worked."
Head coach Rick Stockstill agrees that whatever it is Walden has done, it has definitely worked.
"The big thing he's improved on is how hard he practices," Stockstill says. "He's one of our leaders on defense."
He was named to the 2006 first team all-Sun Belt squad and came into 2007 on the preseason all-conference team, due to his stellar performance last year. But all that recognition doesn't faze him.
"I don't really get into all that," Walden says of his achievement awards. "Individual accolades are good and all, but I'm just trying to stay humble and work hard."
It's not all hard work for Walden, who likes to spend his spare time relaxing with friends. Even when he's not practicing, football is still a staple in his life, particularly Madden Live. Other than that, he claims to sleep a lot. A whole lot.
When asked to sum up his time at Middle Tennessee, Walden says that his college career has been one long journey.
"The biggest thing to me is how much I've grown up and matured," he says. "For me, it's all about staying positive. Even when we're not doing as good as we'd like to be."
Walden's impact is widespread among the football team. Even his head coach is impressed by his attitude.
"He has a wonderful personality, and a great smile," says Stockstill. "He's one of those guys where his play and his personality go hand in hand. I've noticed over the years that the better person a guy is, the better that correlates into him being a better player."
Coach Stockstill seems to think that Walden should have no problem succeeding in life, regardless of which direction he takes after graduation.
"He's a pleasure to coach," continues Stockstill. "He's just so dedicated and focuses on being the best at what he does, no matter what it is. He has a wonderful future ahead of him on whatever avenue he takes from here."
So with just a handful of games left as a Blue Raider, Erik Walden is not only finishing out a season—he's finishing a journey. At the same time, he hopes to start a new journey. Whether it be in the NFL or Georgia's AA High-School ranks, Walden hopes to take the lessons he has learned with him wherever he ends up.
[by MT Realtions, not by me]
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