Gerran Walker is such a southern gentleman, he even tries to keep his name simple for others who often struggle with the proper pronunciation of his first name.
For the record, it sounds like "Jur-ran" when you say it out loud. But out of consideration for everyone he knows, he foregoes worrying about whether or not they can get it right, and simply goes by "G."
Born in Atlanta, Walker watched a lot of great SEC football while growing up, but he ended up playing collegiate football in eastern Pennsylvania for a Division I-AA school, Lehigh University.
Not quite as well known for churning out pro prospects as they are for their outstanding academic program, Lehigh did help place tight end Adam Bergen in the NFL last year. Bergen was an undrafted free agent who signed with Arizona. And during his rookie year, he started nine games while appearing in all sixteen. Walker hopes to have similar success after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Colts following the NFL draft in April.
The versatile speedster has joined a competitive group of talented players who hope to land a roster spot not only as position players, but as returns specialists as well. While Walker is best-known for his kickoff returns and his ability to make plays after catching passes, he also plans to get in the mix for the punt-returns competition in training camp. During his 34 game appearances at Lehigh, he caught 74 passes for 1,325 yards (17.9 avg., 10 touchdowns) and returned 67 kickoffs for 1,638 yards (24.4 avg., 2 touchdowns). At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, he's posted sub-4.3 times in the 40-yard dash.
Walker grabbed the attention of scouts with his opening game of the 2005 season when he posted 307 all-purpose yards against Monmouth. But that same attention began to work against his personal statistics as the season progressed, as teams weren't willing to risk being his next victim as he darted past them on kickoff returns.
Against VMI, Walker returned an early kickoff for 57 yards, prompting a complimentary and respectful post-game quote from VMI head coach Cal McCombs.
"Walker was a dangerous guy and we challenged him," McCombs said. "After he returned that one to give them a short field for a touchdown, we kicked it away from him."
That became pretty typical of what Walker saw for the balance of the season.
”I got a lot of squib kicks last year,” he recently told ColtPower. “ Squib kicks and pooch kicks where they put a lot of air under it. My kickoff return average suffered a little bit because of it, but we still got good field position, so you can't complain about that.”
But Walker didn’t let other team’s aversion to letting him touch the ball dramatically thwart his productivity. He still averaged 125 all-purpose yards per game during his senior year and averaged a healthy 16-yards per catch, good enough to draw the attention of pro scouts from teams like the Falcons, Steelers, Redskins, and Eagles. At least ten teams touched base with him during the week of the draft.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Walker was the attitude he maintained while his opponents were playing “keep away” with him. Even with his dream of playing in the NFL hanging in the balance, Walker felt that doing whatever he could to help his teammates win meant more than his personal statistics. One of the aspects of playing at Lehigh that was highly rewarding for him was the sense of brotherhood amongst the players. And he is already seeing those types of relationships in Indianapolis as well.
"They're in the locker room together, joking around with each other, and guys go out (together) a lot," he said. " They've created an atmosphere where you feel comfortable being yourself -- and these guys are easy to talk to, they don't just walk past you.
"I know being a rookie comes with that territory, but no one here just writes you off. Everybody answers your questions and it helps a lot in the learning process."
With Troy Walters now in Arizona and Dominic Rhodes moving into the starting lineup, the Colts have vacancies at both the punt returns and kickoff returns specialist spots, and it was Walker's speed and versatility that undoubtedly raised the interest of Indianapolis when they watched him during one of his workouts. Walker believes that his expertise as a returns specialist helps also makes him a more dangerous threat as a receiver.
“My strength as a receiver is my ability to run after the catch, because that's where I believe my game takes off -- when I'm running with the ball,” he explained. “My return abilities come into play as a receiver as I break a lot of tackles, I run with power and I've got good vision in the open field. So I feel real comfortable with the ball in my hands.”
And while he hopes to display that big-play ability and his passion for the game to the fans in Indianapolis this season, the southern gentleman in him wants to do more for the city than just bring the fans to their feet as they watch him sprint down the field.
“I will be a nice addition to the community,” he said. “I want to have this city seen in the best light possible.”
Check back on Wednesday for our Colts Q&A with Gerran Walker, exclusively for our ColtPower Insiders. Gerran talks about the role he could play in the Colts offense, his experience at rookie mini-camp and settling in as a rookie, and what Reggie Wayne’s been sharing with the rookie wide receivers.
Story photos compliments of Lehigh University Athletics.