Kenny on Kenny: Walker goes "Red Wedding" on Virginia's defense
Seaside Joe 1161: The "holy shit moments" that created the legend of Kenneth Walker III
I’ve been watching Ozark on Netflix recently, and that show, like many in the post-Game of Thrones era, is about threading (hopefully) interesting storylines around “holy shit moments” such as the infamous Red Wedding.
The fact that it is infamous, as notable and recognizable by most people today as moments that happen in real life—”the slap” or Antonio Brown running off the field, for example—is exactly what HBO and Netflix are hoping will happen with those holy shit moments. We talk about the moment and if “you don’t know what we’re talking about? (scoff)” Then you better pay up and watch.
Kenneth Walker III is a “pay up and watch” running back in large thanks due to his holy shit moments.
Should a team draft such a player in the second round?
(Sidenote: It just occurred to me that “they” have unknowingly decided to move the chains when it comes to when it is acceptable to draft a running back. It used to be that “only idiots” drafted running backs in the first round. So when teams all but eliminated first round running backs, the line of ridicule moved: now “only idiots” draft running backs in the second round. You see how this has very little to do with running backs—and a lot to do with finding reasons to be grumpy? Don’t be one of them. Yes, there are credible arguments on positional draft value and that’s why Kenneth Walker wasn’t drafted as highly as Ryan Mathews or Melvin Gordon, because that’s where he would’ve gone in past eras. The line of ridicule only moved, however, due to some people’s innate need to ridicule others.)
In Part I of this series review on Walker’s college career, I highlighted a 96-yard touchdown run in his very first game as a running back. Holy shit.
In Part II, Walker massacred the NC State defense by displaying unparalleled abilities to change direction, break tackles, and burst through lanes for Wake Forest career-highs of 27 carries, 131 yards, and three touchdowns. Holy shit.
A week later, Walker overmatched the Campbell football team (remember, we saw them in one of my Grayson McCall recaps) to the tune of 11 carries and 105 yards. I won’t highlight that game because Campbell really doesn’t have anything to offer and fellow running back starter Christian Beal had 130 yards and three touchdowns himself that day. If you wanna watch the condensed game, here you go.
But in Walker’s fourth game of his sophomore season, he had 23 carries for 128 yards and three touchdowns against a relatively stingy Virginia defense. The more the game went on, the more fans could say “holy shit.”
Probably more like, “Holy shit, Kenneth Walker is going to transfer out of Wake Forest after this.”
Still not seeing any pass blocking issues
When I was ranking college QBs last year, week after week, Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman emerged as an interesting contender by the end of the season. He finished with 39 touchdowns and he’s already the school’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (72) by a wide margin… with two years of eligibility remaining.
It was a block by Walker that helped spring Hartman for one of those 72 touchdowns on this play.
Walker waits to find the blitzing cornerback, comin from the opposite side of the field from where he had started the play, and he gives Hartman a chance to run outside the pocket and complete this touchdown throw to A.T. Perry.
Patience is a virtue and as I’ve written throughout this series, Walker’s patience paid off immensely in the Slow Mesh offense at Wake Forest. He had two direct snap touchdowns against NC State, but neither of those were as impressive as this one:
The thing that bothers me the most about the “running backs don’t matter” argument is that you’re essentially saying that players at that position don’t have brains. Or that if they do have a high football IQ, what does it matter? People who argue that running backs don’t matter are arguing that no matter what a player does to work his ass off, it’s all just “genetics” and the fact that he happens to play some “easy” position in football.
I do not believe that having a high football IQ “doesn’t matter” for running backs. Walker shows us time after time that he does have a high football IQ and that it does pay off on the field. If you keep fighting the Kenneth Walker pick, what do you think is gonna happen when the season starts?
People who argue that running backs don’t matter probably watch Varsity Blues and root for Jon Voight’s character.
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Escaping a bad situation
Ozark is essentially just a show about a family that has to escape an unescapable situation day after day after day. Similar to how Walker runs.
Admire that instantaneous decision-making by Walker in the middle of a mess: “Left? No. Right? Yes!” He picks up an extra FIVE yards after changing plans mid-play. It won’t work every time, but it will work sometimes, and that’s also how Barry Sanders became one of the best running backs of all-time. I’m not comparing Walker to Sanders, I’m merely saying that every good back has plenty of those forgettable no-gains and 3-yard loss plays.
Why do you remember certain running backs? Because of their holy shit moments.
Walker breaks 4th quarter tie—from 75 yards out “holy shit”
Nobody on Virginia’s entire football team stood a chance against Walker’s 4.38 speed. Not many defensive players in the NFL have 4.38 speed either. Y’all, he’s playing for Wake Forest. Despite only splitting the backfield for two seasons, including as a true freshman, he is undeniably the best running back in Wake Forest football history. And other than maybe Le’Veon Bell, the bar isn’t that high for Walker to have the best pro career of any running back in Michigan State history either.
Here is the play from another angle:
If not for his 75-yard run, it is true that Walker would have had 22 carries for 53 yards. But if not for his football IQ, speed, burst, change of direction, footwork, pass blocking, and a full complement of skills to play running back, he wouldn’t have had a 75-yard run, three touchdowns, and propelled the Demon Deacons to a victory over Virginia.
Walker scored one more touchdown—another direct snap, splitting through the defense and shedding arm tackles for a nine-yard score—to help Wake win the game 40-23.
Over the course of the next three games, Walker only had 52 carries for 196 yards (3.76 YPC) with two catches for 23 yards, but he also scored six more touchdowns. Walker then opted out of Wake’s final two games, entered the transfer portal because of a desire to play in an offense that could better highlight his abilities as a running back, and landed at Michigan State as perhaps the highest-rated transfer of 2021.
In his very first game with the Spartans, Walker rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Holy fuck.
That’s next time on Kenny on Kenny—please don’t forget to share with a friend or on social media if you think Kenneth Walker or Kenneth Arthur are worth it!
All I ask is that Walker's career parallels the greatness of GOT and Ozark, except without the shitty endings. Thank you in advance!
They're right! Only idiots drafted running backs in the 1st round. Forgettable backs like Jim Brown, John Arnett, Walter Peyto n, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Shawn Alexander, Curtis Warner, Eric Dickerson ,etal and their ilk. Some pretty crappy 1st rounders.
By the way, these are the same geniuses who said Fran Tarkenton, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson were too short to play QB. In the NFL! LMOA.