Orrin Walker Jr. has a forthright message to those who deemed it necessary to doubt him.
“I have come too far now to turn around,” Walker, a junior running back for Ardmore (Okla.) High said during a recent interview.
Armed with what various recruiting analysts say is a wealth of blazing speed and resilience, Walker is alluding to the backlash he took after the birth of his daughter, Cambree, who was born September 16, 2014.
According to Walker, days after the birth of his daughter, he was peppered with an assortment of questions — questions from whether he plans to finish high school to whether he will continue playing football beyond what has been a remarkable prep career for the talented 5-foot-7, 150-pound running back.
“Alot of people thought that I would start slacking and some even thought I would quit (football),” Walker said. “But I have been able to maintain going to school, working two jobs, playing football, and taking care of my daughter.”
And in the wake of what undoubtedly has been a brutally hectic year for this football standout, his solid play on Friday nights has given way to a slew of major colleges inquiring about his services once his high school stint concludes.
According to Walker, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Kansas State, Michigan, Penn State, Navy, Southern Arkansas, Northern Arizona, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Oklahoma Baptist, Tulsa, North Texas, and the University of Texas all have expressed interest in him.
To get a thorough understanding of why the recruiting process for Walker — known to many as “OJ” — has been nothing short of impressive, look no further than the remarkable numbers he registered this past season.
In leading Ardmore to a 12-2 finish that included a Oklahoma District 1-5A championship and lengthy postseason run, Walker amassed 1,462 yards rushing on just 102 carries and scored a team-best rushing 17 touchdowns. In addition, he had eight receptions for 147 yards and two scores and was just as efficient on special teams, where he generated 377 yards (47.1 average yards per kickoff) on just eight returns and three scores.
So much for the negative backlash he witnessed upon the birth of his child.
“I know OJ has already spoken on this subject, but when I first learned that my son was going to be a father, I was crushed,” said Orrin’s mother, Anquanett Walker. “Different things began to run through my mind, but I never thought at any time that it would stop him from reaching the goals he had set as a child. Today our precious Cambree is (six) months old and I believe that she has added inspiration and motivation to his life.”
Like Orrin’s mother, Ardmore head coach Doug Wendel also contends that his star running back hasn’t missed a beat since the birth of Cambree. If nothing Cambree has become his grandest cheerleader.
And vice versa.
“OJ has a tremendous upside,” Wendel said. “He continues to improve in his overall body strength. His speed is exceptional. His drive is second to none.”
Conversely, Wendel said there are a few mechanics Orrin must fine tune as he look prepares for what figures to be a record-setting senior season. Scouts and recruiters will get another glimpse of his Orrin when he attends a number of camps and combines this summer.
“One area that he has improved the most is in his leadership ability,” Wendel said. “He has the skills to make the people around him better. OJ will excel his senior season and at the next level.”
Something about which Cambree, his biggest — but smallest — fan will savor.
“Cambree have been big part of my motivation to continue to go forward,” Orrin said.
A forthright message those who deemed it necessary to doubt this true talent ought to take into account as well.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.