The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season. Their head coach, Paul Johnson, has just been named ACC coach of the year, and at 9-3, the Yellow Jackets earned a bid to the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU on New Year's Eve in Atlanta.
The Yellow Jackets defeated Georgia in its final regular season game Nov. 29, coming from a large halftime deficit to defeat their in-state rivals 45-42. The Jackets have climbed to 15th in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, and are the highest ranked ACC team.
Johnson has turned around the philosophy and the fortunes for the Yellow Jackets in his first season. He completely overhauled the offense, defense and special teams and is beginning to receive national exposure.
Former Fort Mill High standout Vance Walker is making his job a lot easier. Walker, a former Shrine Bowl participant at Fort Mill, was recently invited to play in the Senior Bowl and is receiving attention for his contributions to the success Georgia Tech has achieved this season.
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"Being named to the Senior Bowl is a big honor," Walker said. "I am honored that I was chosen, but it is a tribute to my teammates and the whole defensive line. I have been trying to do anything that I can to help my teammates win."
Walker, who recorded the first Yellow Jacket safety since the 2005 season, has been doing everything he can to contribute and people are noticing. He was named as the ESPN midseason defensive player of the year and the midseason All-ACC team. In addition, Walker has cracked the top-20 in Georgia Tech school history with his 13 sacks and 26.5 tackles for lost yards.
"Coach Johnson put the goals for the team and the defense so high that we did not accomplish them, but we have still had a very successful season," Walker said.
Walker is one of 15 players in the nation to be a finalist for the Bednarik Award which is presented to the country's best defensive player. The country is taking notice of his talents, but Walker is not letting the attention go to his head.
"It doesn't matter to me what people are saying; it just matters what I do on the field," Walker said.
"I just want to continue to get better and help my teammates. I am just going to continue to train and get my body ready."
The Senior Bowl is a stepping stone to proving you are ready for the next level. Walker says he wants to play in the NFL, but will take his chances and continue to work hard instead of getting caught up in the pre-draft hype that is associated with every new draft class.
Walker, who still has family living in Fort Mill, is most likely about to take his game to the next level. More than likely he will be drafted in the 2009 NFL draft, but it is unclear where he will be selected.
For now, Walker is not concerned with the NFL, but is focusing on his last collegiate game.
"I don't listen to those things," Walker said. "I could listen to those people if I wanted to, but I don't pay attention. I will just continue to work hard and prepare like I was not going to be drafted at all."