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Football heart: Walker's confidence part of new era at South

South Gwinnett running back Trevon Walker is one of the best athletes on the Comets’ team this year. 

South Gwinnett running back Trevon Walker is one of the best athletes on the Comets’ team this year. 

SNELLVILLE — In the middle of answering a question about the rising success at South Gwinnett, Trevon Walker interrupts himself.

“Hey coach,” Walker says, turning to South’s head coach John Small, “when we win, I don’t feel happy. I feel like it’s what we are supposed to do. That’s what we trained for.”

The Walker File

• Who: Trevon Walker

• Class: Senior

• School: South Gwinnett

• Favorite athlete: Extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana

• Favorite movie: “Friday”

• Favorite musical artist: Gucci Mane

• Would you rather catch a pass or take a handoff? Handoff

• Noteworthy:

• Has 28 carries for 256 yards and two touchdowns this season

• Has caught nine passes for 72 yards

• Plays both linebacker and running back

• Had 81 carries for 576 yards and 11 TDs as a junior

• Used to want to be a BMX racer but “all I do now is football.”

Small smiles. “That’s the mentality we are trying to build around here.”

From Walker’s perspective, it’s working. The Comets are 2-1 on the young season and coming off a 10-2 season from a year ago. Walker knows mostly winning now, but he’s seen the losing. His sophomore season the Comets were just 4-6.

“In past years the team really wasn’t focused, but this year we are all trying to get to the same page,” he said. “We could get there, but we have to keep working.”

Walker only halfway understands the impact his final two years at South are making. He just sees the wins as a byproduct of his and his teammates’ efforts.

“My senior class now, we have been together since eighth grade. We really wanted to win,” he said. “Seeing the other teams, when we were freshmen, seeing their chemistry. Since I was a freshman, we just want to win.”

Small, in his sixth season, views this change through a wider lens. He talks to his former players and knows that each class, regardless of record, helped bring the Comets to the point where losses are the exception, not the norm.

“We talk to them about the impact they have had on our program and the impact they are making, but I don’t think they’ll get it until they leave,” he said. “Three years ago we’d take the field in the game and I’d go, ‘I hope this happens.’ Now we take the field and our expectation is, ‘We are going to win the game.’ That is not being cocky, I want our kids confident.”

In no way does Walker project arrogance. Quite the opposite. He speaks softly and measures he words. Sometimes he just smiles.

Question: “What do you like about playing defense?”

Answer: “I love linebacker because ... well ... because ... I am trying to think of a word. You can’t explain defense and linebacker. It’s just a ... a feeling.”

It’s a feeling Walker learned to love.

As a youth, he played baseball. He didn’t put on pads until age 9 when his father signed him up to play football. Baseball faded. Any other sport went with it. Football became Walker’s only interest.

“I started to get a heart for playing football,” he said.

Walker is strong and fast and his athleticism makes him an asset in more than one way. He rarely leaves the field, ceding some time on special teams, but he was the guy who came away with a blocked extra point against M.L. King in a three-point Comet win.

He had 12 rushes for 129 yards and a score last week in a win over rival Shiloh.

“We are able to do a lot of things with him, whether it be run the ball, play defense, return a kick, block a punt, split out and be a receiver, catch a pass, just a lot of different things,” Small said. “He plays until he has no energy left.”

And he plays at the same speed on both sides of the ball. Walker operates with a clear separation between offense and defense. He doesn’t allow performance on one side of the ball to impact the other.

“All I know is that if I play defense, if I hit, I’ll be able to run the ball,” he said. “That’s the reason I play defense, because if our defense stops the other team, then the offense will be on the field.”

Defense or offense, Walker will be on the field.

“Half of my heart is offense and half my heart is defense,” he said.