No NFL draft prospect has attached a jetpack to his stock throughout this process quite like Georgia’s Travon Walker. Walker was absolutely electric at the NFL Scouting Combine. Walker possesses create-a-player measurables at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds with arms unfathomably longer than 35 inches.
When he hit the field for the testing portion, Walker blew the lid off Lucas Oil Stadium by running the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds. A 6.89 in the three-cone was an elite result regardless of position, and it becomes that much more impressive for a defensive lineman. A 123-inch broad jump and 35.5-inch vertical helped round out one of the greatest athletic profiles we’ve laid eyes on throughout the pre-draft process. Walker is now largely expected to be drafted within the first 10 selections, and nothing is impossible given his makeup.
Walker was a part of a National Championship-winning Georgia Bulldogs squad that was littered with five-star prospects and future first-round picks. He managed to stick out in a sea full of talent, and his potential and upside have reached maximum levels and exposure.
Walker is an on-field superstar, and he’s also an intelligent, caring, and calculated individual off the field that loves his teammates. I recently had a long conversation with Walker that allowed me to get to know him on a deeper, personal level. We discussed his upbringing in Thomaston, Georgia, a town of roughly 10,000 people that’s two hours and 120 miles outside of Atlanta. Walker discussed pursuing a life in football despite being a basketball star locally. We also discussed his pass-rush arsenal, which Georgia teammate he’d trust to have his back in war, his staggering combine performance and experience, and so much more.
JM: I want to start at the very beginning. What was life like growing up in Thomaston, Georgia?
TW: Thomaston is a very small town. It’s one of those old-school, rural towns. It’s one of those towns, you know what I mean? Everybody knows everybody. You see and interact with the same people every day. It’s a fun town. I enjoyed growing up just outside of Atlanta. We lived in the country. Growing up in Thomaston taught me a lot about life in general. There are life lessons to be experienced and learned outside of the big city. We enjoyed the small things in life. We embraced nature. I spent a lot of time outdoors. It’s a small community and family means everything to you. A lot of my family lived close by as well. Growing up in Thomaston exposed me to a lot of things in life.
JM: You attended Upson-Lee high school locally where you were a basketball star in addition to football. What made you choose football over basketball at the end of the day?
TW: At the end of the day, I always had the passion for football. I always felt like I had a body type that was best suited for football. I’ve always been very good at football, even when I was growing up.
One of the main things for me was consistency. I have the size of a football player. I’ve been playing on the defensive line my entire life. I didn’t go through multiple position changes. In basketball, I played the center position in high school. On my travel ball team, I played some power forward as well. If I went to college to play basketball, I probably would have played small forward or power forward. I really valued the consistency I managed to achieve as a football player. I’m thankful I stuck with football, which I have a sizable passion for.
JM: You certainly made the right choice. You decided to play college football by ultimately committing to Georgia, and I imagine it was your dream to represent the hometown Bulldogs. What was it like playing for the home team?
TW: Being able to play for Georgia as a boy that grew up in the state of Georgia made it that much more special to me. Staying at home, playing for my hometown state meant the world to me and my family. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, especially knowing that Georgia hadn’t won a National Championship in 42 years before I arrived at the program. Having been a part of that 2021 National Championship team this year put the icing on the cake. It represents an extremely important time in my life.
JM: You achieved the ultimate dream. What will forever be your biggest takeaway from that National Championship triumph?
TW: I would say my biggest takeaway from last season was just how much fun I had with my teammates. We kept it simple. We had a special connection and bond with one another. We’ve all known each other for a while now. Everybody on the team worked towards achieving the same goal. We were extremely close and we’ll forever have love for one another.
Some people may call that a cliche, and having fun together sounds like a small thing, but those small things add up at the end of the day. I’ll forever cherish the fun we had together. We always knew we could talk to each other and motivate one another when necessary. We had a special bond both on and off the field. If life ever got hard, you had somebody to come talk to. That’s the type of atmosphere and brotherhood we created. We had more than one leader in the locker room and that made life a lot easier on everybody involved. We had so much fun together at the end of the day.
JM: It sounds like the ultimate brotherhood. Playing on an absolutely loaded defense that was littered with five-star prospects means your collegiate football experience was different from most prospects, and you touched on the special bond you all shared. How did playing on that defense help mold the player we see before us today?
TW: Playing on that defense teaches you a very valuable lesson. At the end of the day, it’s not all about you. I’ve never been a selfish individual. I’ve always been one of those guys that love being around my teammates. I love being around them. I love laughing, talking, growing, and having fun with them. We tell each other jokes and things of that nature.
Playing on a defense that stacked, what more could you ask for? I played beside multiple first-rounders and other top prospects in the draft. It’s truly special. It’s something I’ll talk to my kids about one day down the line.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. Speaking of those teammates, what does playing next to Jordan Davis do for a fellow defensive lineman?
TW: Having a guy like Jordan Davis on the inside of our defense, he was our anchor. Having that type of player and talent on the inside, of course he’s going to draw a bunch of double and triple teams. He’s the type of player that freed us up on the edge and allowed us to get a bunch of one-vs-one opportunities.
Playing alongside Jordan Davis helps you a ton. He was there to anchor our run defense. He made it extremely difficult for opposing offenses to run the ball on us. We took pride in that. The University of Georgia is all about stopping the run on defense and running the ball on offense. That was our identity on both sides of the ball. We played hard-nosed football.
JM: It clearly showed. Georgia asked you to play multiple roles and positions across their defensive line. How do you think that experience can help prepare you for the next level?
TW: I love talking about that situation. I have to say Georgia played me at multiple positions and put me in different scenarios throughout my time here. It really enhanced my resume just for the simple fact that I’m able to play every position on the defensive line. They exposed me to everything and it makes me different from every other defensive player in this draft. It gives me a ton of leeway as I prepare for the next level. Whichever team drafts me and wherever I end up, I won’t be surprised by what they ask of me. It won’t be foreign to me. Whatever they ask of me, I’ve already done it at Georgia in some capacity. I’ll already have some experience at that position. I’ll just have to learn how to play it within their scheme.
JM: That experience is going to serve you so well at the next level. I would love to hear about your evolution as you cut weight, and how you felt playing at a bigger weight first helped mold you as a defender as opposed to when you trimmed down to roughly 270 pounds?
TW: This is the thing. It’s a bit of a misconception. I was 290 pounds when I first arrived at Georgia but I never actually played a down of football at 290. A lot of people make that mistake. I’ve heard a lot of people say that I played defensive tackle at that weight, but I never did. Once I got into our summer workouts, I lost all of that weight in like two weeks. It was just baby fat.
I also had a little injury at the time, which probably led to me reaching 290. I had a broken wrist and I had to take things easy at the time. I’ll say this, though. It showed me that I probably could play at a weight greater than 270 pounds, but I don’t think I’m a 290 player. Going from 290 to 270, that made a big difference to my overall game. I started playing a lot faster. I wasn’t thinking as much. I was just playing fast. I was using my speed to the best of my ability. Trimming down to 270 gave me an immediate advantage.
JM: We appreciate you clearing that up for us. No prospect had a Combine performance like you. Nobody. You weighed in at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds with arms longer than 35-inches. You then posted a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash, a 6.89 in the three-cone, a 123-inch broad jump, and a 35.5-inch vertical. Do you feel like you surprised some people in Indianapolis?
TW: I definitely surprised people. Playing defensive end at The University of Georgia required a lot of moving around and playing different positions within different personnel groupings. With me going to the combine, I did what I had to do, but I also felt like I could have done better in some aspects. It reminds me and reinforces me to keep doing the things I’ve been doing. It’s paying off for me at the end of the day and I definitely feel like I surprised a lot of people with my performance in Indianapolis. I didn’t have a lot of sacks to my name and things of that nature, so I’m not sure people were expecting me to stand out in the manner I did. I have an extremely high ceiling.
JM: There’s no denying that your upside is as high as any player in this draft class. Have you noticed an uptick in the attention you’ve received since then?
TW: I have noticed it but I’ve never been the type of person that cares to receive attention, especially media attention. I’ve always been that guy. I rather do what I gotta do and simply go on about my day. I’m not looking for attention. I don’t need attention that I really don’t care for. I’m never going to stop being who I am. I care about my coaches, teammates, and the game of football. Attention doesn’t give me extra motivation to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m already extremely motivated. Football is what I’ve always wanted to do with my life and I’m doing it. I’m doing it because it’s what I want for myself at the end of the day, not because somebody in the media wants it for me. I’m not here to please anybody else.
JM: I love your brutal honesty. With those types of measurements and results, what are some of the ways that you can use your size, speed, and length to your advantage?
TW: It’s simple. Speed is one of those things that really can’t be coached or taught. You either have it or you don’t. Results at the combine can be coached to an extent through pre-draft training but actual play speed can’t be coached. Speed is a natural, God-given ability.
My arm length is a similar blessing. I use my rare gifts and tools to my advantage because they are natural, God-given abilities. I’m very thankful to have those tools at my disposal when I’m on the field playing the game of football. I’ve added some things along the way, things that my coaches have taught me and I look forward to continuing to work on my craft with my future coaches. I’m ready to add to my toolbox.
JM: Your tools jump off the screen. Let’s get into those. How would you describe your pass rush arsenal? Go-to moves, counters, and so on?
TW: Early on in a game, one of my go-to moves is my ability to convert speed to power. I’m a big speed-to-power guy. It goes back to what I said about my God-given speed. I’m also incredibly strong. I love starting a game like that. I feel like it keeps opposing offensive tackles on their toes. They have to stay ready for everything I’m throwing their way. They have to look out for my speed but if they start overstepping me, I can convert it to power as well.
JM: And if speed to power isn’t working early for you, and I know it normally does, what are some of your counters?
TW: Playing so much on the edge, we discussed my length. A long-arm is definitely one of my go-to counters. I’ll throw him a long-arm, and if he starts to overset and tries to reach my top hip, if I’m on the right side and rushing against the left tackle, if he wants to reach my top right hip, I’ll probably stick my long-arm in there and punch out with a long-club once I create a straightforward path to the quarterback.
JM: Which teams were you able to meet with formally at the combine, and do you have any virtual or top-30 in-person visits coming up?
TW: We’re still finalizing my schedule of top-30, in-person visits. I had excellent formal and informal meetings with every team that took time out of their day to meet me, and that was the majority of the teams. At the end of the day, that was a great experience. It allowed me to be around so many great coaches that I’ve been looking to and admiring for several years now. I met with some extremely impressive up-and-coming coaches as well.
Getting ready to enter the next chapter of my life is really a blessing for me. Being in the presence of these coaches and NFL players is amazing. It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of.
JM: What would you say is the best game you ever played in a Georgia jersey and why?
TW: I would have to say Michigan. Going into the game, their offensive line was named the best offensive line in the country or whatever. They had won some award for the best offensive line in the country (Joe Moore Award) or something along those lines. I remember being in the facility the day we heard Michigan won that award and I was watching film and talking to my teammates and I told them that I know damn well the offensive line we practiced against every day was better than what they had at Michigan. Going into the game, the preparation process and what have you, everybody’s mindset was focused on that. The way we prepared as a team and the way we traveled to Miami for that game, we went to Miami knowing that it wasn’t a vacation. It was about business. I feel like I handled that very well. I went out there and did what I was asked to do.
JM: You played a great game. You had so many great teammates, but if you were going to war tomorrow and could only bring one with you, who would you bring and why?
TW: I would have to say Quay Walker. He’s one of those guys that approaches the game the same way I do. He loves the game of football. He’d do anything within his power just to simply play the game. He’s always based his life around football and I’ve done the same. I feel like that’s my brother. I have his back and I know he has mine as well. He knows a lot about me and I know a lot about him. He’s one of those guys that I can go to at any time. I can talk to him about anything. If I have something on my chest, I can talk to him.
He’s never going to quit. He’s not a quitter. He’s a hard worker. If we start something, we’re going to finish it.
JM: He sounds like a terrific guy and teammate. I’ve really appreciated your time today. I feel like this conversation has highlighted why you’re one of the best overall prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. In closing, why should a team select Travon Walker with a top-five selection in April?
TW: I’m a great person outside of football first and foremost. I believe in God. I’m an extremely hard worker with a high motor that never stops running. I’m not a guy that’s going to come in and run my mouth about this, that, and the third. I’m excited to learn from the older guys. I’m going to use my tools to my advantage. I can’t wait to learn from my coaches. I’m going to earn their trust, as well as the trust of the guys around me. I’m willing to learn and I love to be coached. I’m a guy you can depend on to show up every Sunday, every Monday, and Thursday night game. I can’t wait to prove myself at the next level.
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