By Luke Strickland
RIVERDALE — Riverdale High defensive end Dante Walker is in the midst of a whirlwind 12 months.
Last season, Walker was an emerging recruiting prospect heading into his sophomore year. He had the size — 6-foot-3, 240 pounds — but he needed to show interested colleges that he was able to turn his physical gifts into production on the field.
Walker did just that, earning First Team All-County and All-Region honors after a monster season. He recorded 80 tackles, eight sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, helping the Raiders qualify for the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“It’s been amazing, a good experience,” Walker said regarding the increase in attention on the recruiting scene. “The recruiting process is fun. Meeting new coaches and them telling me about their school is fun.”
Walker has become accustomed to high-profile coaches and programs approaching him. Yet, last year, a visit from the Ole Miss coaching staff is what really put his place in the recruiting world in perspective.
“It was right after meeting Ole Miss. I sat down and talked with (Riverdale) coach (Terry) Herrod and was like this is serious now so I have to get right,” he said.
Even with a consistent current of interest from college coaches, Herrod said he has yet to notice any change in Walker’s demeanor.
“Dante is not really one of those kids into recruiting. He is very humble,” Herrod said. “He is focused on perfecting his techniques and being the best player he can be on the field. He has had the advantage of watching Chidi Okonya (Duke) and Greg White (North Texas) go through the process.”
Things are changing as rapidly for Walker at Riverdale as they are on the recruiting trail. He had not been asked to take on a leadership role within the program until this summer, and he, along with the few returning starters in the program, have taken on the task head-on.
“We have to compete. We’re a young team but we still have to compete,” Walker said. “We want to make it to the playoffs and win championships. We just have to compete and keep our heads up.”
On the field, Herrod is anticipating another dominating season for Walker, who he says has all the tools to be one of the state’s best defensive players.
“Dante has unlimited potential. He has the talent to be one of the best to ever play at Riverdale,” he said. “He will play both sides of the ball for us. As a defensive lineman at the high school level he is a disruptive force, almost impossible to block.”
Walker isn’t close to making a decision on his college future, nor does he need to be. The talented pass rusher has two more years left at Riverdale, and he’s focused on keeping the program trending in the right direction. Then, he said, he believes his decision will fall into place.
“I want to let everything develop and see where I’m at. At the end, I’ll know where I want to go,” Walker said.