The Colorado State Rams entered this year’s football season with a plethora of experience and talent, but when talented senior tight end Kivon Cartwright was forced to miss the entire season due to injury, the Rams found a replacement in Steven Walker.
But the starting tight end gig didn’t just fall into Walker’s lap.
Walker had to battle for it, something he first learned in high school, where he discovered the game of football.
“I played hockey and a couple of other sports but going into my freshman year of high school I started to fall in love with [football],” Walker said. “I caught on quick and I’ve been in love with it ever since.”
However, his mother, Bethal Walker, a former track athlete at Wichita State, would try to convert him into a track star. Like his mother, Steven threw shot-put and discus in high school, but unlike his mother, he wasn’t very good at it.
“My mom was my coach pretty much,” Walker said. “We would go out on Saturdays and she would teach me my spin and it sucked because she was better than me. My mom’s a great athlete and we’re an athletic family so it’s fun competition and she enjoyed watching me do what she loved as a kid.”
After high school, Walker pursued his passion for football and attended Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas where he caught the eyes of CSU scouts. While at Butler, Walker didn’t just excel on the field but also excelled in the classroom where he earned All-Jayhawk Conference academic honors.
It was only a matter of time before CSU noticed both the academic and athletic potential of Walker and chose to bring him on board.
“Not very many people go to junior college and make it out of junior college,” Walker said. “I’m just lucky enough to be one of the guys to make it out. I’m blessed to play football and I just like to count my blessings every day.”
What Walker didn’t realize is that it was also the opportune time to join the Rams because Cartwright’s injury would thrust him into the starting position right away, something that his teammates say he’s handled incredibly well.
“Kivon is a great talent and it’s hard to replace a guy like that,” said senior wide receiver Charles Lovett, “But I don’t feel like Steven was overwhelmed at all. You can put him at any position on the field and we’re confident in him that he’ll get the job done.”
The versatility that Lovett notices in Walker’s game is the same thing that Rams senior quarterback Garrett Grayson loves out of his new tight end.
“He’s brought kind of that ‘Crockett [Gillmore]/Kivon [Cartwright]’ dimension to us,” Grayson said. “Without him, as far as the tight end position, we’d be in a little bit of trouble. He stepped up and played a huge role for us all year so I think if you can give him the ball in space it’s pretty evident what he can do with it.”
Walker has hauled in 24 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns through nine games this season, which are 11 yards and a touchdown more than he had in his entire previous season in junior college. Although his five receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown against Nevada might be his best performance, his favorite performance was against Boston College, where he caught six passes for 67 yards.
Interestingly, although Walker is a versatile threat to opposing defenses and a rising star in the Rams’ locker room, he’s actually quite shy.
“You really don’t get much out of him,” Lovett said, “but we know when we put on the pads what we’ll get out of him. He’s a really hard person to read because he’s so quiet, but we know what he can do on the field so that’s really all that matters.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.