Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 7, 2013

Walker ready to get on gridiron

BLUEFIELD — Ordell Walker has seen enough of his desk.

He will start seeing a football field today.

The Bluefield Rams will begin preparations for the 2013 season today with a pair of practice sessions at Mitchell Stadium.

“I am very, very excited to get out there in the field, to get from behind this desk,” said Walker, who was hired to replace Mike Gravier on May 31. “I wish I had another month to prepare, but I love that once the season starts you put the whistle on and you just have to go do it and everything you can kind of set aside and that becomes your main focus so I am excited about that.”

Walker, who had previously been head coach at Greenville College in Illinois, takes over a program that finished 0-11 in its first season of football since 1941. His primary goal for 2013, which will begin on Aug. 31 with a visit to Point University in Georgia, is simply to get better.

“Improvement in all areas, it is hard to put a number on those things, but obviously the scoreboard,” Walker said. “We want to see that improve, our retention, our GPA, our guys being connected with the campus, not just football, but being good citizens...

“Those are all things that we are going to be looking at and trying to improve, I really don’t put a number on those things, I just say focus on the process of these things, every day we are trying to improve these things.”

Walker’s primary objective since arriving on campus has been to add players, since Bluefield has struggled to retain athletes since restarting the program two years ago.

“Anytime you sign a few guys that buy into you and the team that you are selling, you are excited about them,” Walker said. “Certainly there are some talented guys we got late, some of the guys we will feel like can come in and really help us out. There is still a lot of uncertainty with their transition and also the recruiting class that was already here even before I was hired.”

He has also added offensive coordinator Aaron Mingo and offensive line coach Jeremy Burrows, both of whom followed Walker from Greenville. Bluefield lost all of three of its primary staff members off last year’s team, with Gravier fired and Mike Compton and Stacey Hairston leaving for other positions.

Will King was hired by Gravier as defensive coordinator, and will remain in that position, but Burrows will replace Joe Perri, who had been hired by Gravier to replace Compton.

“There is that adjustment part, but they were going to have to adjust anyway,” Walker said. “They are adjusting to me, adjusting to Coach Mingo and the offense being different and the terminology being different.

“Once they get around Coach Burrows I think they are really going to like him. They will spend a lot of time with them and a lot of time in the weight room so I think we can make out...

“Football is football so there is crossover, but to start off they will learn a new language basically. It is camp, it is an exciting time, you have got to be fired up for that kind of stuff and hopefully next year we are not in that spot.”

Getting the few returnees blended in with the imports will be a significant challenge ahead, as the Rams prepare for the first game just 23 days away.

“The biggest challenge is you only have 30 percent of your roster that is returning, and even that 30 percent, I don’t have much experience with them so getting everybody on the same page from a philosophical standpoint is probably the biggest thing,” said Walker, who has been pleased with the work ethic of those who have returned. “What is our culture going to look like, what do we want it to look like, everybody comes from different places and you don’t have that remnant of guys who already know how it is done.

“To me that is the biggest challenge, is getting everybody on the same page on how we want the culture to look.”

A significant part of that culture will be focused on the Christian-centered mission that is such a key segment of Bluefield College.

“We weave it into everything, I hope there is consistency in my life and I am not a hypocrite, who I am off the field, who I am on Sunday is the same person I am on Monday’s practice,” said Walker, who is married to Beth, and has two children, Elijah, 8, and Levi, 6. “That is what we want, we want to model that in terms of creating a culture here and getting guys to buy into that culture, that is all driven by my faith and what I think God wants for our lives.”

Walker will stress God, character, relationships and servanthood among the other positive aspects to the Rams.

“That is what makes you a great team if you have some of those qualities,” Walker said. “I am not ashamed to let them know, that is why we do what we do. Here is what drives me, it may not be what drives you, but here is what our program is going to be centered around.”

After 71 years without football, the 2012 season was one Bluefield College would rather forget, with an 0-11 record and a complete overhaul of the coaching staff.

Still, that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for Rams’ football.

The Rams will host Emory & Henry in a scrimmage on Aug. 23, and will play the first of four home games on Sept. 21 against Kentucky Christian.

“There is a ton of excitement, I have been welcomed so much,” Walker said. “I feel a part, even in a short time, myself and my family, people are willing to help and seek out opportunities to help us and introduce us and connect us with different people.

“That has been great and it has made the transition really, really easy. I love that football is important here, they want to see the program succeed, they want to see it improve, and I love that, that is what you want as a coach.”

Enough with sitting behind a desk. It’s football time for Walker and the Rams.

 “I am just excited about the opportunity,” Walker said. “I am just blessed to be here with the people I am getting to work with and love the challenge of trying to build a great program.”

Editor’s Note: Offensive coordinator Aaron Mingo will be featured next week in the Daily Telegraph.

—Contact Brian Woodson

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