Demarcus Walker ignored warning

Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood defensive lineman Demarcus Walker knew things might get a little crazy, but he never expected his recruitment to turn into a nationwide battle.

However, he was warned about what could happen.

"Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt at Alabama said everything would change once they offered me," Walker said. "And he was absolutely right. Once the Alabama offer came, things got real crazy."

Suddenly, nearly every top program in the nation made offers and his phone rings constantly every day.
But despite all of the inconveniences, Walker, a member of the ESPNU Watch List, doesn't seem to be fazed by all of the attention.

"It's been more than I could have ever dreamed," said Walker, who recently accepted an invitation to play in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game. "It's really been a blessing and an honor to be treated like this."

At 6 feet, 4 inches and 260 pounds, Walker fits the mold of the modern-day defensive end. He had 24 tackles for loss and 14 sacks as a junior, despite facing constant double-teams.

"He is just one of those kids who imposes his will on the opposition," Sandalwood coach Adam Geis said. "Demarcus has some great God-given talent, there's no doubt about that, but his work ethic is really what allows him to be successful.

"He's been with the program for three years, and he just continues to put the time in on and off the field. His trains hard, he doesn't miss his weight room sessions, and it shows up on the field."

Geis, who played at Duke, has been one of the key confidants for Walker in terms of his recruitment. For the most part, the defensive end doesn't tip his hand, and his coach helps when it comes to the important questions.

"We've tried to keep Demarcus' recruitment pretty quiet because there are a lot of options out there," Geis said. "When you've got schools from so many different directions, it's easy to get caught up in all the hoopla, but we're moving carefully."

Walker has been to Miami, Florida, FSU, Alabama and Clemson already, and plans a return trip to Florida State. He went to FSU's camp and Florida's Friday Night Lights last summer.

"The first thing I want to do is see the academic center," said Walker. "And then I like to check out the facilities, the weight room and the meeting rooms.

"And I always ask every coach to see the depth chart."

Sometimes Geis steps in with even more questions.

"Going through the process myself and doing it again with several players, I have a good idea of what needs to be asked," Geis said. "A lot of the kids will just ask about the dorms or when it's time to get fed.

"I try to stress to all my players to get a better understanding of what it's going to be like as a student-athlete. What's the schedule like each day with classes and team obligations?"

And he also wants to make sure they will have an opportunity to see the field.

"You know it's easy to get in love with the helmet and the tradition and the legacy of a program, but the goal is to get out there and play," Geis said. "I've had players going to big-time programs who spend much of their careers on the sideline, and I've had guys like Rusty Smith, a former quarterback here, who played four years at Florida Atlantic, set all of their records, won a conference title, won two bowl games and is in the NFL right now."

Walker says that Alabama is recruiting him really hard right now along with Clemson, Florida and LSU. He also says that Florida State is picking up its contact with him and Ohio State and USC have also ramped up their interest.

"All great programs, and it's hard not to think about the great history with these programs and how I can be a part of that," Walker said. "I really don't have a list of favorites right now because every program that has offered has positives."

Geis said that one visit might have stood out a little.

"I really think the Clemson visit was a good one and Coach [Jeff] Scott always does a tremendous job recruiting the players from this area," Geis said. "It was a real nice trip, and we learned a lot from it."

Geis said whoever lands Walker should be getting a really good player on the field and a good person off the field.

"I've never had a problem with Demarcus in the three years he's been in the program," Geis said. "He doesn't get in trouble. He doesn't get into fights or anything like that. Now anything can happen once you get into college, but if something happened with Demarcus, I'd have to blame the program, because he's been a good, hard-working young man here.

"I'm excited to have him for another year."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.