Clemson has landed its seventh verbal commitment of the 2006-07 recruiting campaign in Ronda, NC - East Wilkes offensive lineman Landon Walker.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder, who lit it up at the Shrine Bowl Combine in Chapel Hill, NC last Saturday, is Clemson's third verbal pledge by an offensive lineman.
Walker committed to Clemson last week, but wanted to wait until the completion of final exams and the Memorial Day holiday before announcing his college choice at a 1pm press conference today.
In an off-line Monday evening interview with Tigerillustrated.com, the blue-chip tackle said he has always viewed Clemson as a big-time football program.
"The first thing you think about when you think of Clemson is a big-time football program. When people think of Clemson, SC or Clemson University, they think of football, not necessarily basketball or baseball, but year-round it's football," Walker stated.
"The atmosphere in Clemson is unbelievable on game day, and you can't beat it. To get over 85,000 people in that stadium, and to know that the school has 16,000 students and the town has 12,000, that tells me a lot of Clemson fans are coming from somewhere else, so that just shows you the kind of support they have, to see all those people sell out for their players."
Walker picked the Tigers over semi-finalist N.C. State. In fact three weeks ago the Ronda star nearly made a verbal commitment to N.C. State and recruiter, defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap. Oddly, Dunlap, who at one time was the defensive coordinator at Syracuse, almost went to Clemson to assume the same position in 2002 before deciding to stay with the Orangemen.
First-year tight ends coach Billy Napier recruited Walker for Clemson, and single-handedly brought the Tigers back in it, a movement that was capped off when Walker took an unofficial visit to Clemson with his father back on May 18th.
"Clemson really did a great job of recruiting me. They stuck it out with me," Walker told Tigerillustrated.com. "When I went there, there was just a gut feeling. I knew it was right. It's not just something that happens. You don't just make a decision like this without a lot of thought, and the feelings I had when I left there made a big difference."
The East Wilkes star, who spurned scholarship offers from North Carolina, N.C. State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Duke and East Carolina, said he and Napier have become close over the past two months.
"Coach Napier comes to your level and he communicates well. He's humble, but at the same time he's cool, and I think he's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet," Walker added. "He and I have built a very strong relationship through this process, and a lot of that is because he was very real, very honest and straight forward to me about my role at Clemson and how I could fit into what they were doing."
Walker said Clemson offensive line coach Brad Scott also played a role in his decision to pledge to the Orange & White.
"Coach Scott just told me that he wasn't going anywhere unless coach Bowden was, and I know coach Bowden's contract is five years, so he's stable."
Walker's father, Gary, played for former Clemson head football coach Danny Ford on the 1981 National Championship team. The talented lineman, arguably the most athletic offensive tackle on Clemson's recruiting board, said even with his father's guidance and support, in the end, it was his decision.
"This really has been just a great experience. Not many people have the privilege to be recruited and enjoy something like this. I know that a lot of people would like to be in my shoes and have a full scholarship to not just one place, but a lot of great schools," Walker said. "Ideally, I think you would like to be able to make an easy decision, get it over with and move on, but this was a hard decision early on. It was an important decision."
Walker told Tigerillustrated.com Death Valley's West End Zone project also made an impact on his unofficial visit.
"A lot of great things are happening at Clemson right now and facilities is a part of that," he said. "When Clemson finishes the West End Zone, it's going to be the top football facility in the country. Death Valley, already, is one of the best places in the country to play college football."
For Napier, it is his first verbal commitment at Clemson as a full-time assistant coach, though it should be noted that the former Furman quarterback and South Carolina State assistant was the most instrumental figure in the acquisition of Asheville, NC four-star rated cornerback Crezdon Butler last summer, and was the recruiter of record for Butler before former defensive line coach Marion Hobby assumed that responsibility following Napier's departure to SC State.
Walker is coached by Mr. Monty Chipman. Also, his offensive line coach, who was present at today's presser, is Mr. Jeremy Helton.
Tigerillustrated.com will have more from Walker's press conference later tonight, including photos and a complete press conference transcript.