How Otis Walker overcame loss to become Seabreeze’s dominant senior running back.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon at Seabreeze High School, and the sun is starting to dip below the horizon. There are no lights to illuminate the football field, but the Sandcrabs’ football team, fresh off a dominating performance against Pine Ridge, keeps practicing.
Otis Walker, a senior, is among them.
He’s quiet. He does his job. You’d think he’d be the kind of guy who doesn’t make much of an impression.
But not with that frame. It’s the first thing that stands out when the Sandcrabs take the field for a game.
All 6 feet 1 inch, 210 pounds of him.
It’s even more startling once the games commence: the bone-crushing hits, the debilitating stiff arms, the lowered shoulder that can put almost any defender on his butt in the blink of an eye.
The Sandcrabs have won five games this season. That’s more wins than they’ve had in any season since 2013 (a seven-win season). And Walker’s play at both running back and defensive end has been one of the biggest reasons for Seabreeze’s success this season.
And it almost didn’t happen.
‘I had to get my life together’
Walker joined the Seabreeze football team in ninth grade. He only played one junior varsity game, however. One of his cousins, who lived in Miami, died midway through the season. Walker and his mother made the nearly-four-hour drive soon after to be with his family. He stayed for two weeks and missed practice and school.
Things didn’t get better when he got back.
He started skipping class, he fell behind, he grades slipped. He remained academically ineligible to play high school football for two more years.
But in the spring semester of his junior year, he knew that he needed to make a change.
Ex-Father Lopez defensive coordinator Pat Brown, who was hired on Jan. 25 to replace Troy Coke as Seabreeze’s next football coach, stopped Walker in the hallway one day during school.
He wanted him to play football. But first, he needed to improve his grades.
“I realized that I had to get back on track,” Walker said. “I had to get my life together.”
A 2.0 GPA is required to be eligible to play high school football in Florida. Walker had a 1.7. He buckled down, finished his online classes early, took more online classes and, before Seabreeze’s Red and White spring scrimmage, surpassed a 2.0.
“He got dialed in,” Brown said. “He made a commitment to it, and it was a good first accomplishment to actually commit to something and finish it.”
‘I’ll keep pushing until I make it’
Even without playing football for nearly three years, Walker has gotten better each week this season. He’s become more patient, he can read holes and blocks better, he’s improved his pad level on his runs.
And the bonds he’s formed with his teammates have gotten stronger.
“The guys really look up to him, and they see his development,” Brown said. “That’s more encouraging than anything — seeing that he’s becoming more consistent, more reliable.”
The Sandcrabs set a goal of going to the playoffs in 2019, and they’ll need the best out of Walker in order to get there.
Walker doesn’t always have confidence in himself, but he’ll push to the end anyway.
“I’ll keep pushing until I make it,” he said.