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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

Sikeston's Walker signs with Avila

Friday, March 9, 2012

sports@standard-democrat.com

SIKESTON -- Avila University offered Ben Walker exactly what he wanted -- a smaller atmosphere, his major and a chance to play football.

Walker recently signed his letter of intent to play football for the Avila Eagles making him the third 2012 Sikeston Bulldog lineman to play at the next level.

"I wanted to go to a smaller school," Walker said. "I went and visited there, they liked me and they wanted me to come play football. They had my major -- that was a big part of it. I want to go into pre-med and they had it. They're actually the number one pre-med school in the area. I liked it there a lot. They're smaller and can give you more attention."

Walker, who was both an offensive and defensive lineman for the 8-3 Bulldogs last season, was one of the anchors to Sikeston's offensive line who helped the Bulldog offense to a total of 4,121 yards.

"We're excited for Ben to do that," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "We're excited for him to get to continue, number one, his education and number two, playing. He's one of those guys that worked and got himself in a position to be a player."

The 6-3, 260-pound senior aided in James Watson, who recently signed with Lincoln University, reaching 1,605 rushing yards, which ranks him fourth all-time in school history. With Walker and the rest of the offensive lineman's work in the trenches, Sikeston saw most of its success on the ground giving the Bulldogs 2,995 rushing yards.

"A lot of people will tell you that you're only going to be as good as your offensive line is," Gibbs said. "We had seniors that were very consistent for us. We're certainly going to miss them. No doubt about that."

Walker, who was also a state qualifier for the Sikeston wrestling team, started for the Bulldogs both his senior and junior year. He played some during his sophomore year as well. He was part of three Bulldog playoff teams that accumulated a 34-5 record in a three year span.

"If you do the right things good things will happen," Walker said about what he take from his experiences with the Bulldogs. "If you do the little things right, it will help with the big picture. (Our coaches) gave us life lessons like being good, active citizens and good sportsman's."

Avila is a Catholic University that plays in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. The Eagles are coached by Justin Berna, who will be in his second season as head coach in 2012. In his first season, Avila had their second best season in school history, finishing with their best record (4-6) since 2003 (5-5) and doubling their wins from 2010.

"I think one of the bigger things is with him signing with the school that he signed with, was that he had to have really good academics to be able to do that," said Gibbs. "I think that's something we don't need to overlook.

"We're excited he gets to play football, but when you make really good grades you're going to have more opportunities."

Although they haven't specified where they will use Walker, Avila runs a similar offense to that of Sikeston which will be to Walker's advantage.

"That's a good thing. It won't be too hard to transition into their offense," he said.

Walker will also join former teammate and fellow senior Clayton Driskill as part of Avila's 2012 signing class. Both Walker and Driskill have played together on Sikeston's line for the past two years.

"When they would come and talk to us, he would be in the room too," Walker said. "They wanted us as a package deal. He liked it and I liked it."