When David Walker began his career as the starting quarterback for Texas A&M, he did so as the youngest signal-caller in NCAA history–at only 17 years of age. In the years since his playing days ended in 1977, David still holds the record as the youngest to ever start at QB in all of college football.
With toughness and a never-give-up spirit fostered by his high school coach, Louisiana Hall of Fame legend Shannon Suarez, Walker helped lead the Aggies to their first winning season in five years and earned the honor of Freshman of the Year, as voted on by the coaches of the Southwest Conference (SWC).
Though David took the field as the youngest quarterback, he left as the winningest in school history. The lefty from Sulphur, Louisiana, a two-time team captain and four-year starter, guided his team to back-to-back 10-win seasons, something never before accomplished in Aggieland.
To this day, David remains among the very best quarterbacks to have ever donned the maroon and white, as evidenced by the fact that forty years later he still sits as the second-winningest quarterback in school history. He is one of only five Aggie quarterbacks who have led their team to a bowl victory and a Top 10 ranking.
We recently visited with David to get his thoughts on the upcoming game between the Aggies and the Rebels.
RW: Many folks might have been surprised to see the Rebels (5-5, 2-4 SEC) open as a 2.5-point favorite over the Aggies (6-4, 3-3). Can you give some insight into why that was the case?
David Walker: First, I think if you look at this game from an analytical standpoint and sort of shove the players and coaching sideshows aside, you have some statistics that can’t be ignored. Texas A&M will be playing its fifth consecutive conference game where it opened as an underdog. That’s probably unprecedented territory for the A&M football program. And on top of that, they’ll likely make it six straight next week when they play at LSU.
Secondly, you have an Aggie tradition, at least of late, of folding the tents in November. The Aggies are only 4-12 in November since 2012, Manziel’s Heisman year. They’ve only covered the spread in 3 of those 16 games, so they’ve been a bettor’s delight, so to speak, come crunch time. In fact, last year A&M didn’t cover the spread throughout the final nine games of the season. That’s just unimaginable.
Thirdly, the Aggies—since joining the SEC—have yet to cover a spread versus the Rebels. Ole Miss is 5-0 against them in that regard.
RW: What do you expect to see in this Saturday’s game?
David Walker: Both quarterbacks had superlative performances last week, and I expect a high scoring game this week, particularly since neither team has shown a proclivity for playing defense.
Ole Miss, however, in recent years has shut down Sumlin’s Air Raid offense as well as anyone, so that factor could sneak in. Further, the Aggies have had difficulty getting their guys open against great athletes. Special teams always play a role, and both sides are solid in these respects.
The Aggies have struggled against Ole Miss since Johnny Football left, and have another redshirt freshman QB, Nick Starkel, now ready to see if he can bring the magic back at Vaught-Hemingway that the Aggies enjoyed in 2012 and 2013.
I look for a great game between two fairly evenly-matched teams, with plenty of fireworks for all.
RW: Both teams have had injuries at the quarterback position. Though the Aggies have early-season starter Nick Starkel back, Ole Miss lost Shea Patterson to a season-ending injury. What do you think of the job backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has done for the Rebels?
David Walker: I’ve been impressed with Jordan Ta’amu’s performance thus far. It’s one thing to be able to throw the football well and to run the offense with the second string in practice—but it’s quite another to perform in a game situation.
I watched him lead the Rebels on a game-winning drive against Kentucky on the road, throwing the go-ahead touchdown with about five seconds left to play. He was calm, cool and collected, and it looks as if his teammates have confidence in him.
Finally, Ta’amu is completing about 73 percent of his passes and last week was ranked 6th in Total QBR. After his performance against New Mexico last Saturday, Nick Starkel was ranked 4th in Total QBR—so we could see quite a shoot-out in Oxford Saturday.
RW: Any final thoughts on the game?
David Walker: Team-wise, both squads have an incentive to play well, primarily derived from their coaching situations and their expectations for each other. I know how much the Rebels want to win to try and help Coach Luke keep his job. Plus, it’s Senior Night, and that’s always motivating.
Within the past two years, A&M has helped two LSU coaches (Les Miles and Ed Orgeron) keep their jobs after they defeated the Aggies. Now it’s time to see if A&M does the same for Ole Miss’ Matt Luke.
“I’ll Tell You When You’re Good!”
If you’d like to learn more about David, visit his website at 12thManQB.com. You can also order David’s book, “I’ll Tell You When You’re Good!” on his website. It is an extraordinary story about his playing days and the teammates and coaches who impacted his career. If you love football, you’ll want to take a look at this fascinating tale of grit and perseverance.
Follow David on Twitter: @DavidWalkerQB
Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M info:
The Aggies and Rebels kick off at 6:00 p.m. (CT) at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)