The Wolverines continued their busy afternoon in the state of New Jersey last Thursday as Kareem Walker became the first running back to net a Michigan offer in the class of 2016. Although the Wolverines have built a connection to a good handful of running backs on the East Coast, coach Roy Manning has taken a special liking to Kareem. Their relationship grew throughout the year, as did Walker's success on the field for De Paul Catholic. Despite starting as the second option in the Spartans backfield, Walker earned his way onto the field in 2013.
"I think my sophomore offer went good," said Walker. "I contributed to the team and it ended in the state championship game, so it can't get any better than that. It went good for me too, though. I ended with 1,000 yards and I didn't even start. I was the second string running back at first. I set out to prove people wrong and should that we, as a team, could beat other top schools like Bergen and Bosco. We don't have any quit, and we took it all the way to the state championships."
To be more precise, Walker finished the 2013 season with 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns after beginning the year in a reserve role. These numbers would not be possible without Walker's speed and aggressive running, two areas of his game that are clear strengths at this point in his development.
"I just have good instincts and vision," said Walker. "When I see a hole, I go. I bring that kind of energy to the field and when I get in there, I just push the limits of the defense. When I hit the hole then reach the second level and get out in the open, I can't be caught. I haven't caught this year from anyone."
"It's all truly a blessing for all my offers. From where I'm coming from, only a few make it out. I'm so blessed to have all of my offers. Hard work pays off and I firmly believe that."
Walker's hard work has certainly begun to pay off in the terms of scholarship offers, and he looks to add more as the offseason camp circuit is beginning to kick off. Michigan is joined by Penn State, Rutgers, Temple, Tennessee and Wake Forest as schools that have offered the 6'1", 190 lb. running back so far. In terms of which school may be a good fit, Kareem has an idea of what he is looking for in a school.
"I want to fit in with the team and have good chemistry with the coaching staff. To be in a place with good fans that will inspire you to work hard. I won't quit and I want the environment like that."
These qualities have allowed for the Wolverines to make a strong impression on Kareem so far despite their geographical distance. Walker's main recruiter, Roy Manning, has developed a close relationship with Kareem, one of a mentor rather than a recruiter.
"I really like the Michigan program," said Walker. "Coach Roy Manning is just a good recruiter and a good person. You can talk to him about anything. When I call him, we could be on the phone for an hour talking about life, not just football. When we first talked, he just wanted to talk about how I grew up and where I came from. Our relationship is personal and he actually knows stuff about me. That type of stuff is big. He told me he went to Michigan, and we talked about when he was there."
In the time leading up to his Wolverines' offer, Walker continued to stay in touch with Manning, and was actually on the verge of calling the Michigan linebacker coach just hours before he was offered.
"I was talking to coach Manning for a long time and I was actually going to call him. It was the night before he offered around 11:00 and I wanted to call, but figured I'd just wait until the next day. When I went to school and my coach called me down to the office and he got on the phone with me and told me that Michigan had offered."
It is clear after talking to Walker that he is thoroughly interested in Michigan, and his newly-received scholarship offer only intensifies his interest in the program. A visit is in the works, although neither party are sure when this will take place. Still, Walker is very excited about what Michigan has to offer and is continuing to learn more about the program, including new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
"Manning told me about that and said he coached a lot of good running backs," said Walker. "As long as the coaches are honest and don't tell me only what I want to hear. They should tell me about what's actually going on since that's what matters. A lot of coaches tell you that you're going to start, but coach Manning told me that you have to work for it. He said work isn't handed to you, and you have to work for everything you get. He was really honest when he was talking to me and that's what I'm really looking for."