DARWIN WALKER: Tennessee Vol
Coach John Stucky, strength coach for Tennessee, said, “Chad Clifton and Darwin Walker are the strongest kids that I've ever coached.” We featured Chad in our Fall 1999 BFS magazine. It is now Darwi
By Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 1999
Darwin is an awesome defensive tackle at 6-3 and 300 pounds. He turned down an opportunity to turn pro so he could finish his senior year with the Vols as a team captain and finish his Civil Engineering degree. Here are Darwin's stats: Squat: 625, Bench: 550, Power Clean: 365, Total: 1495, Vertical Jump: 34.5, Standing Long Jump: 9-8, 40: 4.65 seconds.
Leroy Riley was Darwin's football coach at Walterboro High School in South Carolina. “Coach Riley was the most dedicated coach I've seen,” remembered Darwin. Coach Riley also had a BFS Clinic a few years ago and Darwin used the BFS Set-Rep log book.
“When you achieved certain standards like a 350 Bench or 500 Squat you got a shirt,” recalled Darwin. He started lifting in the 7th grade, used BFS Super Weight Gain and watched the still awesome BFS video featuring Stefan. The video also inspired Darwin to throw the shot and discus.
Darwin was 6-2 245 as a senior who played running back and linebacker. He Benched 440, Squatted 550, Cleaned 320 and ran a 4.56 forty. Darwin's best Shot Put was 65-6 good enough for two state titles and his best Discus throw was 188-11 which was a state record. He won the Discus state title three years in a row.
Darwin maintained a 3.5 GPA at Walterboro and was rated 2nd best player in South Carolina in his junior year. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury his senior year and played in only five games. Walterboro made the playoffs and said Darwin wistfully, “We won the state football championship the year after I left.”
Darwin chose to go to North Carolina State and even played as a true freshman and started by mid-season. However, for personal reasons, he transferred to Tennessee just before fall after his freshman year. “It turned out to be the best decision of my life,” said Darwin. “I also wanted to go to a contender. And now! I'm a captain of a defending national championship team.”
Before the 1999 season, Darwin was philosophic, “Now I feel I'm at the bottom of the totem pole. We are defending national champs but we have zero wins with 13 games.
“I always dreamed of winning a national championship but when it happened, I was in awe. I was pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.
“I actually got to hold the trophy up. It was heavy. The Cleans and Power Jerks came in handy just to lift it. Our worst nightmare would be to get cocky. We take extra care to step it up, just so we won't get complacent.”
When Darwin first got to Tennessee, it was a lot like his lifting program in high school. “It was more of the same,” said Darwin. “It was an extension. Coach Stucky saw something in me from day one and stuck by me. He is the best of the best.”
I was taking photos of Darwin's squat workout for this article. He was an inch or two high but it was not my place to say anything. I was all done and moving on to another lift when Coach Stucky came over and said, “Darwin you were one-inch high on that 505 squat. Do it over and do it right.” I was impressed. It was what I would have done. Darwin, showing great respect, did another set without complaint and did it right.
Coach Stucky, who is like a father figure to most of the players, preaches to always stay humble and hungry. He wants every player to focus on three areas: Discipline, work ethic and accountability. Last summer 76 Tennessee football players made their voluntary workouts. Coach Stucky and his staff of three full-time assistants and three graduate assistants plus volunteers train over 400 athletes in all of the Tennessee men's sports.
“We don't do anything too fancy,” said Coach Stucky. “We mostly Squat and Pull. We spend most of our time on the platform.”
Darwin believes that to be successful you must have preparation, dedication and execution. “Stay with it,” he says, “and execute your plan.”
Darwin practices what he preaches. He will graduate in December in civil engineering. “Can you miss class in that major,” I asked?
“No! No! No way,” shouted Darwin. “You can never miss class in engineering. It's a 40-hour job. With track, football and school, sometimes I don't know whether I'm comin' or goin' but I don't like laying around. I'm more focused when I'm busy and weights are a big stress reliever.
“If the opportunity to play pro football comes, I'll take it,” thought Darwin. “Then after, I'll use the money to invest in my own engineering firm. My parents are general contractors. That's my background. I want to build and construct.”
Darwin sat out in 1996 because of his transfer from NC State but in 1997 he started in 13 games. Last year, Darwin again started in all 13 games and had a great bowl game. Coach Brooks, Darwin's position coach, says, “Darwin has great ability plus a consistency we can count on to help us every Saturday.”
In addition to football, Darwin earned a trip to the NCAA indoor championships with second-place in the Shot Put (61-2). He also placed 10th in the 1998 NCAA outdoor meet.
Darwin is fun to be around. For the photo shoot, he was Benching 500 pounds for reps. His voice challenged, “Watch this. I'm gonna blow this baby up. Boom!” It did go boom. I laughed and took the shot.
Darwin never took a drug or had one beer in high school. “My dad would have killed me,” he explained. “Same with my mom. They love me completely but they made sure I was disciplined. My parents have never missed anything I've been involved in. They have made every game. It's a good feeling.
“I have also never smoked or chewed. As far as steroids, I don't even know what they look like. I took creatine for awhile but Coach Stucky got me off it because what he felt I really needed to do was to get more agile and more flexible.”
Darwin tries to keep life in it's proper perspective. “Put God first in everything you do,” he said. “I have a list of ten goals at home. At the top of the list is to put God first. I try to pray every night and in the morning. Sometimes I miss, but I try to live up to my mother's example.”
Now it is our turn to continue this chain of wonderful examples. Darwin is doing it all. He is making the most of his athletics and education while keeping his spiritual values intact. Darwin is living the National African American Creed and taking full advantage of the freedoms fought and died for by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other great Americans. He eats, lives and breathes Coach Stucky's motto: Discipline, work ethic and accountability. We thank them both for allowing us to feature their beliefs and values. Darwin is an eleven!