Central Mountain’s Walker among 17 seniors to be honored

Even though Central Mountain High School graduate Von Walker’s college football career is over after a knee injury suffered last week at Rutgers, he’s still set to be one of the 17 seniors honored before Penn State’s game today with Michigan State in the school’s traditional pregame ceremony.

Walker released a statement on Twitter earlier this week, confirming the injury and thanking his supporters during a career that began as a walk-on under Bill O’Brien in 2013.

“After suffering a knee injury last Saturday, it saddens me to say that my career at Penn State has come to an end. I’m writing this message to say thank you to my teammates, coaching staff, our fans, and the whole Penn State community for having my back and supporting me through me career. I have been truly blessed to have been a part of such a special team and program. It has been an unbelievable ride and I’ll never forget my time at Penn State. WE ARE! Sincerely, Von,” posted Walker on his Twitter account, @VTW21.

The post had 423 retweets and 2,051 likes as of Friday afternoon.

Walker finished the season with seven tackles, ending a run where he was the eighth two-time captain in school history, joining George Linsz, Bob Higgins, Bas Gray, Mike Reid, Steve Smear, Paul Posluszny, and Christian Hackenberg.

He earned a scholarship in April 2015 after two walk-on seasons, which saw a switch from running back to linebacker the year before. The injury also ended a run of 28 consecutive games played.

Head coach James Franklin compared Walker’s loss to that of a starter, like on his banged-up offensive line, since he’s been special teams captain for two years. He added that Walker characterized and embraced the role of Nekton, which is what special teams coach Charles Huff calls core players there.

“I think his first couple years, he was still chasing the linebacker opportunity and things like that,” said Franklin earlier this week on his weekly teleconference. “That’s great. We wanted him to do that. We also wanted  him to approach and realize how much of an impact he could have on the team on special teams.

“I think a lot of times with high school guys, the star players don’t play special teams in high school. It takes some time to get everybody to buy into the importance of special teams in college football and the next level, the NFL. Von has really kind of figured that out over the last year and a half. He’s done a great job for us,” said Franklin.

“I mentioned after the game in the locker room, he’s the one that kind of spoke to the team after the win last week,” said Franklin. “I just mentioned to him that not only has Von had a significant role on our team the last two and a half years, but he’ll continue to have a significant role moving forward from a leadership perspective and those types of things.”

Walker made two tackles this season vs. Ohio State and one vs. Pitt, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, and Indiana. He finished his career with 33 total tackles, with a career high three times and most recently last year vs. Army. He also recovered a fumble in that Army game.

Walker also blocked a punt in 2015 vs. Michigan, the Nittany Lions’ first since 2012 and set up their only touchdown in that game. He also returned kicks and punts his first two seasons.

Additionally, Walker has been on pace to graduate this fall with a degree in advertising and public relations.

Teammate Brandon Bell will also be honored today, as will fellow linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, whose season also ended with a knee injury. Bell said if there was one person who might cry today, it might be Walker.

“Those guys know how I feel about them,” said Bell earlier this week. “Those are two of my best friends. We talk a lot throughout the week, not just about football. They know how I feel about them, what’s at stake Saturday, I guess you could say.”