Eli Walker is finishing up his time at Kansas State University this spring after what most would consider a solid individual season performance by the safety. 61 total tackles (including 12 in a road loss against Baylor), 51 solo tackles, and 3.0 tackles for loss helped him turn some heads.
The defensive back transferred to K-State in 2017 after attending Cerritos College in Long Beach, Calif. and becoming the #1 ranked safety at the JUCO level. Walker isn’t the only one to come to Manhattan from Cerritos. D.J. Reed transferred to K-State from Cerritos in 2016 and went on to be a fifth-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers.
The head football coach at Cerritos College, Frank Mazzotta, had some really nice things to say about Eli. According to Gopowercat.com, Mazzotta said, “Eli is a great kid. He comes from a big family. I think this is the greatest achievement of anybody in his family. You never know, Coach Hayes might make him that nickel guy, that strong safety guy, because the one thing that he’ll do is he’ll come up and knock your nuts off if he gets a chance. I think that’s why they picked him.”
Walker this past weekend was able to make it to Seattle’s rookie minicamp and got quite a bit of advice on how he needs to get his game more pro-ready. “One thing I did learn with the schemes and plays is that everything matters…every single detail matters in the NFL, Walker said. “You have to be in the exact spot. In the Big 12 or the SEC, you can get away with being two yards off, but in the NFL, every single thing matters.”
Walker emphasized how different the skill level is at the NFL level compared to the college level. “You may have an average player who has average skills, but they apply the information really well, and you may have a player who’s really good, but finds it kind of hard to pick up the playbook, Walker said. “In college the more athletic players play.”
The importance of being a smart player who can make smart plays is more crucial than ever at the NFL level Walker went on to say. He knows if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’ll have to use his wits. “In the NFL it’s all about the neck up. Of course, you have to have the physical attributes, but you have to apply everything to make it.”
When it comes down to the little things, Walker is making sure that everything is precise so he can make his mark and standout amongst his colleagues. Walker has even had to make adjustments to completely change his game to be more pro-ready. We hear all the time about college quarterbacks not being pro-ready, but it’s just as applicable to defensive backs.
“I’m playing more deep-middle now, Walker said. “In the NFL they want you to back pedal until somebody breaks for a big run or someone gets beat on a deep route. I was playing free safety (at K-State), so one I learned is stay back. I was kind of being too greedy when I first got there. I would shuffle over to the side instead of getting back because I wanted to get close to the action.”
There will be plenty of action for Walker this offseason. With Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, coming up throughout late May, and mandatory minicamp in mid-June, Walker’s NFL journey is just getting started.