Oct. 15, 2001
Berkeley - Ingredients for an NFL-caliber left tackle:
Six feet, eight inches? Check.
345 pounds? Check.
Nearly four years starting experience protecting the quarterback's blind side? Check.
Saying that Langston Walker is a big man is like saying that Mt. Everest is a big mountain. Somehow you just have to see it to believe it.
Walker, who ducks through doors and whose feet make loud, dull thuds as he walks, would stand out in most any crowd. Notice him in the huddle: he's the one bending down to hear the play call. Notice him in a movie theater: he's the head blocking your view of the screen.
"I like to blend in as much as possible," muses the American Studies major.
Blend in? Not likely.
A former teammate, Cal lineman Kevin Doherty said that he felt like "a midget out there. I used to think that I was a big guy (at 6-5, 310). He's humongous."
As much as Walker claims that he just tries to be an average college student (when asked, he lists his hobbies as "sleep...and do what any normal college student would do"), but he isn't. He's a top draft pick waiting to happen.
When asked if he feels that he is a legitimate NFL prospect, Walker remains noncommittal.
"I think I am. Everybody's telling me so, I guess I have to believe them," says Walker.
While hype swirls around Walker (he was listed on Lindy's preseason second All-Pac 10 Team), he takes everything calmly, and in stride.
Just like on the football field.
"A lot of guys will start talking trash (to me) at the beginning of the game," says Walker. "By the middle, they're quiet, because I just don't respond to it. Talk back to me, it doesn't matter. If I put them on their back, I just get right back up and in the huddle. I don't play those games."
Walker describes his job as "keeping defensive ends off my quarterback, and blocking for the running backs." Such it is with the offensive lineman's philosophy of keeping things calm and simple.
The locker room is a noisy place. Players getting ready for games, people shouting, music blaring. Most players have some pre-game ritual of getting themselves psyched up before taking the field, be it singing, or shouting, or banging on a locker. Walker doesn't go in for any of this.
"I try to stay as calm and as focused as I can. I just tell myself, go out there and play your game."
He keeps things simple on the field, too.
"Before the game, I try to keep my mind off the game as much as I can," he says. "But, during it, I am totally enveloped in what I have to do and what is going on around me."
In many ways, off the field and out of the locker room, Walker is your average college student. He listens to rap and R&B, his favorite player is Marshall Faulk, and he's a 49er fan.
But the Bishop O'Dowd grad and Oakland native is about to follow in the path of another Cal left tackle, Tarik Glenn, who now starts at left tackle for the Indianapolis Colts. Glenn, incidentally, played ahead of Walker at O'Dowd, and also at Cal. Walker moved into the spot vacated by Glenn at both schools. Glenn eventually was a first round draft choice (19th overall) in 1997.
Soon Langston Walker might just be "blending in" with the pros.
--By Jack Gorman