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FOOTBALL SUPER SIX: Duluth trying to rebuild program around Walker

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
 Duluth's Xavier Walker 

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Duluth's Xavier Walker 

When Xavier Walker was a sophomore at Duluth he began to hear the whispers.

It didn’t matter if it was from his teammates, coaches or parents, they all kept telling him the same thing — he had a chance to be something special.

THE WALKER FILE

Who: Xavier Walker

School: Duluth

Class: Senior

Position: Defensive back/wide receiver

Size: 6-foot-31⁄2, 190 pounds

College favorites: Auburn, Kentucky, Miami

College offers: Virginia and Kentucky

Noteworthy:

• Made 55 tackles, 1 interception last season

• Runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash

• Three-year member of baseball team

• Power cleans 275 pounds, bench presses 265 and squats 300

What’s your preference, offense or defense? “I get this question all the time. I say either. I started off at receiver, but I just moved to defensive back. But I love hitting people and getting interceptions, but I like catching the ball, running routes and getting open. I love both. Either position they want to put me at, I’ll play it.”

Coach Corey Jarvis’ take: “He’s real rangy and can cover a lot of field. Personally, I like him as a wide receiver. I think he might find a better home a wide receiver because he fits what we do at the wide receiver spot for us. Defensively, we moved him from free safety down to strong safety. He’s a physical kid, who runs well.”

As a lanky and athletic 10th-grader, Walker passed the eye test when it came to spotting potential standout football players. Two years later, the defensive back is ready to prove he wasn’t just hype.

Walker is the first Duluth football player to ever be selected to the Daily Post’s Super Six, and it comes at a time when the Wildcats are on the verge of turning around the program with a new head coach.

“It was pretty obvious he was one of the better players they had returning and was a guy that the other kids looked up to,” first-year head coach Corey Jarvis said.

Walker attended Norcross as a freshman, but returned to Duluth, where he went to middle school, as sophomore. He had to sit out the varsity season and shined on the JV level.

Walker started at defensive back for the Wildcats last season, making 55 tackles and one interception. Not bad for his first varsity season.

“My junior year I didn’t do as great as I could, but I did all right,” Walker said. “I felt it getting easier as I played more varsity and more football. Then letters and offers started coming and that’s when I was like, ‘I have to buckle down and I’ve got to make it.’”

As a 6-foot-31⁄2, 190-pound defensive back, Walker has grabbed the attention of SEC and ACC college recruiters. That’s a rarity for Duluth, which has only had one player sign with a BCS conference Division I school in the last 15 years.

“Being at Duluth, it was kind of shocking,” said Walker, who has offers from Kentucky and Virginia. “No one ever got a D-I scholarship or kept it. It was kind of shocking.”

Duluth hasn’t lacked Division I talent, it’s just that most of its top players never graduated from there. Many of the school’s standout football players have transferred to neighboring schools as the Wildcats have struggled through losing seasons. The thought to transfer crossed Walker’s mind until he decided to stay and make a difference.

“Me and my teammates were like, ‘We’re going to prove that you can go to a big school and be someone that’s known to be great from Duluth High School,” Walker said. “We’re going to stay and prove everyone wrong that you can get a D-I scholarship. So far it’s working.”

The Daily Post began its Super Six in 2000 as a way to recognize the top athletes in the county prior to the season. Since then nearly two-thirds of Gwinnett’s football playing schools have had a player selected to the Super Six. Duluth joined the list with Walker.

It’s one of many firsts Walker hopes to add this season. He was in diapers the last time Duluth had a winning season or made the playoffs. The Wildcats’ last state playoff appearance was in 1994 and their last winning record was the following season. The Wildcats haven’t won more than two games since 2003, which is why when you hear Walker’s goals for the season, it’s hard not to think he’s out of his mind.

“One of our goals is to win 15 games,” Walker said. “(Coach Jarvis) said that at the spring game, he gave us three goals. One was to win 15 games, two was to not let anyone beat you and three was always beat the person in front of you.”

Prior to taking the Duluth job, Jarvis coached at M.L. King, where he led program to the playoffs the last five seasons. He’s used to success, he’s used to winning and he’s used to having players sign college scholarships. Walker could be his first at Duluth.

“We just need him to keep working hard and being that leader we need,” Jarvis said.