Jan. 11, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Today we're going to announce that nine members of the Notre Dame football team have applied to Notre Dame's Faculty Board on Athletics for a fifth year at the University. Here is a quote from Charlie Weis:
Charlie Weis: "Recently I addressed the issue of the fifth?year process. The nine players who have applied for the record a fifth year are Co-Captains Tom Zbikowski and Travis Thomas, John Carlson, John Sullivan, Trevor Laws, Dwight Stephenson, Joe Brockington, Ambrose Wooden and Geoff Price."
Charlie Weis: "On Tuesday, Darius Walker and his parents informed me of his intent to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft. He guaranteed me that he would graduate from Notre Dame in the near future. Although disappointed, we wish him nothing but the best."
THE MODERATOR: Coach Weis will not be available tonight at his book signing for any comments, so no need for any ambush there.
Darius Walker: Wow, man, I don't think I was expecting a turnout like this. It's crazy how news seems to spread around here.
I definitely want to start off by giving honor to God who has guided me and guided me up to this point. I just want to start out by saying that, you know, Notre Dame really is a special place, and it's a special place for special people. I knew the first day that I came up here, the first day that I came on my official visit, I came up from the south in Georgia where it's hot all the time. I remember we came up here in November. Now, winter has been good to South Bend this year, but usually in November it's full of snow and it's very, very cold as this day was.
So I knew it was going to be a bit of a change for me getting off of the plane when you see all of the white snow on the ground and coming from the south where I don't see snow at all. I don't remember seeing snow since I was like three or four years old, so it's crazy for me.
You know, coming to school here and meeting the people, you just feel it. You really do. And I think anyone who has been to Notre Dame or been around Notre Dame or met some of the people here knows what I'm talking about. You feel it. I felt it when I went to the Grotto, even though it was cold I felt it. And I felt it when I spoke with the coaches and the people, and I knew that this definitely was a special place and the right place for me.
I really have had a great time here. This, again, I really couldn't have found a better players than Notre Dame with the tradition here and all of the special people that I've met. And thankfully for me, I've been playing football since I was five years old, started out peewee, a little boy at five. So I know forever my dream was to play pro and to go to the NFL. And thankfully, with the blessing of God, that opportunity has permitted me now.
So I've decided to forego my senior year and to make myself eligible for the NFL Draft. And I definitely want to thank the entire Notre Dame community, their fans for supporting me and being behind me and this team my entire time here. You really can't find a better bunch of fans.
I definitely want to thank Coach Willingham who kind of got me started in this direction.
Definitely a big, big thanks to Coach Weis who has been very instrumental in my career these past few years.
Coach Haywood has definitely helped me step my game up. A special thanks to Stan Wilcox, Jack Hickey, all of the people who were very instrumental in my career and influenced me positively since I've been here.
And definitely special thanks to my parents. They have supported me through everything, and a big thanks to my brother, Delvin, who is always there picking me up and helping me through everything.
Thanks to just everyone, all of my high school coaches, my teammates, players, everything. It really has been a great experience for me and I'm excited about this new journey that I'll be on. Thank you, and I guess open it up for questions now.
Q. What went into your decision to bypass the senior year? Most of the NFL scouts would say an extra year would be beneficial. What were the factors involved in this decision?
Darius Walker: Well, it was a lot of things that went through my mind about this decision. You know, I really didn't have a chance to think about it until I was eligible for it which came after the Bowl game and everything. So I just really feel like it's right for me.
Sat down, spoke with the folks and all of the people who have influenced me and have supported me and everything. Wrote down the pros and cons, all that type of thing, and just really feel like, you know, it's the right thing for me to do at this time. It's the right thing for me to go on and to go to the NFL now rather than wait.
Q. Is it the feeling that you want to strike while the iron's hot; you had a very good Bowl game, do you feel that now is the opportunity to maximize your situation?
Darius Walker: Well, I think there's a whole bunch of factors that, again, came into this decision. I definitely prayed about it, took some time to do that and the Lord just really helped get me to this decision that it's time for me to make that next step and it's time for me to do it now. I had a great season and I felt really good about where things ended up for me and just really think that, again, I just time for me to make this move.
Q. Were there concerns or indications that you might have to share the ball?carrying responsibilities; did that come into play?
Darius Walker: I see where you're trying to go. (Laughing) No. That was something I didn't even really think about that. That was something that never occurred to me, nor did I have any discussions or anything like that about something like that.
Q. You mentioned that you didn't give it a great deal of thought until after the Bowl game, but during the season, was it mulling in your mind at some point; were you starting to put together that mental list a little bit?
Darius Walker: Well, I don't think I really had a chance to until after the Bowl game. In season and things, I really wanted to stay focused on what we had to do with the team and what I had to do to help the team.
So as far as thinking about the draft and it entering my mind, it really did not ?? I didn't give have a chance to give it thought until after the Bowl game.
Q. I understand that you've made really quick progress towards your degree for someone that's been in school for two and a half years. Can you lay out how you hope to finish your degree?
Darius Walker: Well, I definitely plan on staying in school this next semester, taking 15 hours, and once I'm done with this semester I think I'll have about four classes that I need before I can graduate, so very excited about that.
So as far as steps towards my degree, that's really why I came to Notre Dame is to get the degree. I definitely came here planning to be a student first and athlete second, football player second. I definitely feel like it's the right time for me. As far as graduation goes, I need a few classes after this semester, so I'll definitely be able to get that soon.
Q. Who did you consult in terms of ?? or have you, in terms of where you might go in the draft?
Darius Walker: Wow, you really want to get deep; he really wants to get into the business. Well, I'm not making a blind decision if that's enough for you.
This is definitely something I've thought about and actually done some research and things and talked with a few people so. This isn't something I'm stepping out in.
Q. Well, I know your dad has a background certainly there, but I just wondered, do you have a feel for where you'll go in the draft; do you have any idea?
Darius Walker: I really have no idea right now. The Combine and things like that are coming up, so there's a lot of changes and shifts that could possibly go and happen within that time. It's a lot of work and stuff that I have to do before that.
Q. I talked to you during Bowl preparations and you were struck by how seemingly everybody on this offense is leaving and in many ways Notre Dame is starting over next year. How much of a factor was that in the decision; that in many ways, you would have had a completely new cast to work with next season?
Darius Walker: Well, I don't think that really struck into my mind too much. That is a great point, too, though. For me, a lot of the guys that I have played with since I was a freshman here and since I have known college football will be leaving this year. So that's definitely something to think about.
But I don't think it really had a whole lot of factor in my decision since other guys were leaving. I think this is really a personal decision for me; something that I felt it was time to do.
Q. On the business end of things, do you already have representation? Have you already signed off on that? Where are you in that process?
Darius Walker: No. That's definitely the next step now, to try to find an agent and to try to get through all the legalities that come along with making yourself eligible for the NFL Draft.
Q. I know you said you consulted with some people. Was part of that putting your name into the NFL system to get a scouting report back?
Darius Walker: Well, some of the stuff of course I would like to keep private as far as that is concerned.
But again, this was not a blind move for me. It's not something just all of a sudden I woke up one day, hey, let me go to the NFL and see if I can make it. It's definitely something that I put time and research in, something that I feel is right now.
Q. When you look at the other running backs this year and who might be coming out next year, did that play any part in your decision as far as the people in your position that you would be going up against?
Darius Walker: Well, there's so much that goes into the NFL Draft and so much that goes in from season to season. So you never know what can happen in a season.
I don't think that really factored too much into my mind, because next year is a total new year. You never know what guys from other teams are going to do and you never know what you yourself is going to do. I have no idea what I would do if I came back. I don't think that really played too much into my decision.
Q. What was your reaction when Darius told you he wanted to do this?
LAVERNE WALKER: It wasn't the factor that Darius told us he was going to do it. We all talked as a family as we do with everything that involves Darius and any of us.
So it wasn't just a Darius Walker decision; it was a family decision, and we would not be here if we did not totally support WHAT Darius is doing right now.
Q. You've touched the ball over 800 times during the last three seasons, any concern about putting more mileage on top of that? I know scouts think about that, if a guy has fresh legs coming out of college or whether he's taken too much of a beating. Were you worried what another season of catches or touches would do?
Darius Walker: You know, injuries and things always play a factor in decisions like this. Worrying about what could possibly happen next year, the uncertainties of possibly getting injured in the next season, things like that.
So I definitely believe that you know, that may have not had a big, big factor but that's always something to consider with these kind of decisions.
Q. How fresh do you feel then after a season of 31 catches?
Darius Walker: I like that word, fresh. It's a good way to describe it. Fresh, definitely.
Q. Was this a difficult decision for you and when you were weighing what you would be giving up versus what's out there for you what was the guideline for you?
Darius Walker: It definitely was difficult for me. There's a lot of relationships and things that you build in college and especially with sports as far as coaches go, as far as people go, teammates, underclassmen, those teammates who are under you in age, and it was very difficult for me to, you know, step away from those guys or step away from the program.
I mean, Notre Dame is all I really know now, and it's something that has been a part of me for the three years that I've been here and something that will always be a part of me in the future. I really feel like Notre Dame was the right place for me, the right choice, and I definitely will be back. This isn't the last Notre Dame is going to see of me. You can tell O'Neil Hall that they can keep a dorm reserved for me for when I come back.
I'm definitely excited about this situation that I'm in and it was definitely difficult to make, and there were definitely a lot of factors that pushed me in one direction.
Q. I know you said you planned on graduating; do you have a time frame in mind?
Darius Walker: I definitely want to get that done as soon as possible. Off?seasons and things, takes classes and stuff like that, it's really going to be structured as it always has been. That's definitely something I plan on getting in the near future.
Q. You talked about being in school this next semester, and then you have to prepare for the Combine, how are you going to work that out? Where will you do your workouts, do you plan on going somewhere to get the training for that?
Darius Walker: That's what I'm in the process of now is formulating all of that and getting my scheduling down. It is going to be tough handling a full load of semester of classes and training for the Combine. We feel like I'm up for the challenge and will be able to do it, but that's definitely something I'm in the process of working on now is to how to go about doing that the right way.
Q. Would you say right now it would probably be better for you to work out here then and get all your work?
Darius Walker: Well, you know, ever in know. You never know what the best decision is. Again that's something that's a work in progress. It may be a mix of working out here and working out somewhere else. It's something I'm going to have to work on and something that will be formulated.
Q. You talked about Coach Weis and Coach Haywood, what they have meant for your development. Did you kind of want them to be here today with you?
Darius Walker: Well, you know, Coach Weis and Coach Haywood, again, were very instrumental in my career here. They both helped me develop and blossom to the point I am now and I owe a lot to them. I really would like to again be able to consult with them about anything that I need and be able to talk with them about all of these decisions and choices, and even when I do get to the next level, maybe still be able to consult with them. So they are definitely two people that are close to me and I owe a lot to.
Q. Coach told us before that he is against juniors leaving. Did he try to talk you out of this? We asked him earlier what he would do, and he said if it was an underclassman, he would be against it.
Darius Walker: Coach Weis was worried about the graduation aspect of it and me being able to get my degree and things like that. That's something he was instrumental when we had our discussion and our meeting, and it was very important and I assured him that that's something I'm still going to get and it will be in the near future.
Q. So did he try to tell you to stay?
Darius Walker: Well, I don't know if you could say that or that if he told me to stay or not. He really just stressed the fact that the degree is very important, which I agreed with; that getting the degree and the education here is most important more so than football.
Q. And when Anthony Pasano was making the same announcement, he said in his mind, he said he wanted to be in the first three rounds; based on what he heard he was going to go there. Do you have a number in mind that if you heard you were going to be first round second round, top whatever, that you were going to go?
Darius Walker: I don't think I really had a number as far as what I heard. I definitely felt like, you know, regardless of what it was, that I would be able to up my stock and be able to determine my own success and my own place in the draft.
So I definitely feel like regardless of what that was that I would be able to determine that and be able to change that regardless.
Q. You said that you haven't hired an agent yet. Is your evaluation process over; is there any chance by next Wednesday that you could change your mind or say, have another press conference?
Darius Walker: And do this again? (Laughing).
Well, as of right now, I definitely feel like I've made up my mind and made the decision to want to go on and to move on. I definitely feel like, you know, this is about to get very strenuous because there's a lot that, again, that I have to do and I have to accomplish before April and everything.
Q. Your upside, we have our opinion, what do you think your upside is?
Darius Walker: I think I can do it all. I don't want to sound conceited or whatever. I feel like I've been able to show what I can do: I can run the ball, catch the ball, block, everything that a running back is supposed to do. I feel like I've been able to get better in every aspect of my game from year?to?year, so I definitely feel like that's an upside to me.
Q. You keep moving up on the list, right now 4th on the all?time list. Is there any temptation to say, hey, I can be No. 1 if I come back next year?
Darius Walker: Well, I think that's always in a player's mind, especially with leaving early or leaving at any time; that there's always records and things that you could comeback and set and break.
But I definitely feel like you know I've done some of that while I've been here, broke a few records and accomplished a lot of the things that I wanted to accomplish.
Q. Does playing in a pro?style offense weigh into your decision at all and if so, how much?
Darius Walker: Well, now that you bring that up, I think that's always an up so I had from any player coming from Notre Dame or the system that we play in is that it is a pro?style offense, and that it's not going to be a whole lot of acclimation as far as going to the next level as far as scheme goes and understanding.
LAVERNE WALKER: I have one thing I wanted to add. I hear a lot of questions about the school aspect and we have always been school?oriented first, and as I told Coach Weis when we met with him, and all of the fans and anybody else that really has that concern for Darius, as a mother and a parent, like I told Coach Weis, you do not have to worry about Darius Walker getting his college degree, because he will do that. I will see to that. (Laughter).
Q. Over the three years at Notre Dame, did you ever feel underappreciated at all, and did that play into your decision?
Darius Walker: Not at all, no. Not at all. I definitely feel like I've played with a group of great guys, a lot of guys with a lot of talent and a lot of great leadership qualities and I definitely feel like I fulfilled myself here at Notre Dame.
Q. One of the things Coach Haywood said before the Sugar Bowl is one of your deficiencies at the beginning of the year was pass blocking and you mentioned pass blocking as one of your strengths now. How important is that for you during the course of the season?
Darius Walker: Very important. I definitely felt like pass blocking was something a running back was supposed to do and had to do. I definitely felt the need to get myself better in that department and all of the aspects of my game. So it's something that I took very, very hard interest and worked towards.
Q. Just wondering if you can give us a preview of the guys coming back in your position and who you see filling your shoes next year?
Darius Walker: As far as at Notre Dame? Wow, you want me to be a coach now. Well, I definitely think it's a great group of guys coming back. James Aldrige and Munir Prince both, I've gotten a chance to get to know them this season and this year a lot because we were roommates. Got a chance to form relationships and bonds with those guys. Those two themselves are two great players, and guys that really want to get out there and to me the thing that is encouraging about them is they don't mind working for it.
Q. Would you suspect that Travis would be flipping back to running back next year?
Darius Walker: Travis is one of those versatile guys. Travis can do anything on the field. Anything Travis wants to do, he can do it. If that's something he wants in his mind to do, I definitely can see him doing it and I definitely can see him playing defense as well. That's really up to him.
Q. You probably haven't had much time to think about it but does it matter to you which team would you go to; is one style of play, whether it be a West Coast offense or anything like that more important to you?
Darius Walker: You take care of that little baby in the background.
Q. I think he's a Notre Dame fan.
Darius Walker: Sounds like it.
No, it really doesn't matter. Going to the NFL again has been a dream of mind and you really can't control what happens and what team you go to as far as that is concerned unless you're one of the Mannings. (Laughter) No, that was a joke, that was definitely a joke.
But no, it really doesn't matter to me what team I play for, even what style of offense I go to.