During his recruiting visit in 2008, Lewis Walker watched as the Hawaii football team reigned at a parade.
"That was exciting," said Walker, who made a verbal commitment the weekend the Warriors were being honored for 2007’s 12-0 regular season. "I got to see everything. I got to meet the 2007 players who graduated."
Walker, now a third-year sophomore defensive back, is being celebrated as one of the Warriors’ most productive — and versatile — players.
This week, Walker is practicing at safety — his fourth defensive role. Got change? There are schemes in which Walker, recruited as a cornerback, plays nickel back and dime back. He also has emerged as one of the Warriors’ top special-teams members.
"He’s totally fearless," associate head coach Rich Miano said. "Lewis used to run down on kickoffs, see a wedge (of blockers), and then run through the wedge. There’s no fear in Lewis. He does not slow down on contact. He goes right for the football."
One of the qualities of a defensive player is to squeeze through gaps; in football parlance, it is getting "skinny."
"He doesn’t have to get skinny," Miano said. "He’s already skinny."
Walker is 5 feet 11 and 178 pounds — a slender build, to be sure, but more muscular than when he was a 155-pound freshman. Still, he is considered to be, pound-for-pound, one of the Warriors’ hardest hitters.
"Everybody likes to look at size," Walker said. "That’s just eye candy. All of the testing and everything, that’s just eye candy for the recruiters, for the coaches. You’re not bench-pressing anyone when you get on the field. You’re not squatting anyone. It’s all about your technique, and we just jam technique all of the time."
At a pre-UH combine, Walker was timed running 40 yards in 4.49 seconds. The past two years he has worked on strengthening his legs, which he hopes improves his speed and endurance. His most impressive time has been his at-the-snap quickness.
Against Charleston Southern, Walker, playing nickel back, aligned to the right of the offensive formation. He raced in to make a fumble-causing sack.
"Did you see him timing it up on that play?" Miano said. "He has instincts. He keys the snap. Look at the replay? Everyone is standing still, and Lewis is already in the backfield. You can’t teach that. If you don’t time it right, you’re offsides, and that will come back and hurt you."
Walker said that play stemmed from a week of intense practices.
"We emphasize: play how you practice," Walker said. "Our practices were insane. We were swarming. We were making plays, getting the ball out. Forcing turnovers? We talked about it before the game, even before we went to the stadium. That’s why (the fumble) felt great."
Walker said he enjoys playing the different positions. He likes the challenge of playing man coverage as a cornerback, the overall view from the safety position, and being able to mix it up as a nickel back.
"I like being able to help out the team in different ways," Walker said.