Already sporting some Jacksonville Jaguars garb, outside linebacker Travon Walker looked as advertised when he showed up at TIAA Bank Field with his parents and agents, a massive athlete that carried himself with poise, confidence and charisma, the look of a first-overall selection in the NFL Draft.
The questions that remained a concern didn’t have to do with his makeup, athletically, physically, or mentally, but where he would play after playing all over the field on the Georgia Bulldogs. As a pass rusher, he left much to be desired, too, accounting for just 9.5 sacks through three years.
Though observers are concerned, Walker didn’t appear to be phased when asked about his lack of production, confident in his abilities and excited about the prospect of playing in just one position in Jacksonville that will only allow him to excel as a pass rusher even more.
“Just to all the people that say that I can’t pass rush or do whatever I didn’t, wasn’t as productive at Georgia, I’ve never really just played one position consistently, so I feel like I’ll be able to grow as a player once I just focus on one main position,” Walker explained.
He also gave an indication of where he would like most to play in Jacksonville, on the edge at outside linebacker or as a down lineman.
“I see myself playing on the edge, five technique, anything on the outside on the edge,” Walker explained on Friday during his introductory press conference, asked about what position he’d ideally like to play.
“At Georgia, I was just, like you said, I always told my coaches I’d do anything to get on the field so, therefore, I played everything from a zero nose all the way out to a nine, wide, six technique.”
Walker’s duties at Georgia didn’t always have to do about getting after the passer. Georgia’s defensive scheme didn’t, at times, allow for a defensive lineman to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.
Oregon HC Dan Lanning talking about one of their man coverage simulated pressure (Belly) variations versus Alabama. Week 1 Install for the Saban tree defensive coaches.— James Light (@JamesALight) April 27, 2022
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In fact, while many have understandably praised others on Georgia's defense due to their accolades last year, Walker led the team in quarterback pressures with 34 along with teammate Jalen Carter. In Jacksonville, Walker feels like he will be able to excel in one spot for the first time in his football career.
“It’s very exciting because I’ve always moved around ever since I was in high school and played middle linebacker in high school. I’ve never just played one position so when people say I don’t have a lot of production, but once I do just get to train for one position then that will come on it’s own.”
Both Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson and general manager Trent Baalke were consistent in their statements about what they expect from Walker. They want him to play on the edge of the defense, opposite of OLB Josh Allen. Being able to play him in one position to start his career will make him that much better, Pederson said on Friday.
As he continues to progress, only then will the team want to try him in other positions, perhaps utilizing his versatility to maximize his production.
“Obviously, there is versatility so as we grow with him and as he understands what we’re doing schematically, we can move him around the defense just a little bit,” said Pederson.
“But it’s just a matter of getting him in here, getting him acclimated, getting him around the teammates and getting him started with the defense. Really solidify him in one spot and let him grow in one spot.”
Prior to being the selection, Walker didn’t really know what to expect, but he had a pretty good idea that Jacksonville would be the place he calls home for the foreseeable future. Being selected first overall is special, and something he’s dreamed of since he was just seven years old.
“It’s truly a blessing to be in this position,” Walker said shortly following his selection on Thursday. “I spent this time with family, mom, dad, grandparents and cousins, people that have been there for me.”
There are perhaps a couple of reasons why Walker heading to Jacksonville is a match. Growing up in Thomaston (Ga.), just a couple of hours from Cartersville (Ga.), where the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, played during his high school career.
Walker is already quite familiar and close to the team’s starting QB, though he never played against him in HS. Another player that Walker knows well is cornerback Tyson Campbell, the team’s first second-round selection last year.
“I’ve known him ever since high school, so I feel like he’ll be somebody who takes me under his wing,” Walker said of Lawrence. “I came on my top-30 visit, he was working out, he ran up to me, so I just feel like we already have that bond. I have Tyson Campbell here as well to help me.”
But, another plus for Walker will be his family’s vicinity to Jacksonville, just a four-hour drive away.
“It really means a lot to me because I know my mom, she doesn’t like getting on planes, flying, so she’ll be able to make that drive really easy. And I know how she is, she always wants to be on to me so now I’m a momma’s boy,” he said with a smile.
Walker has always been in the position of being one of the nation’s top players. Out of high school, he was rated as a consensus five-star prospect, the No. 2 player in Georgia, 22nd-best player in the Nation and the 431st best prospect of all-time, according to 247Sports.
The pressure didn’t get to him then, however, and it won’t get to him now as he heads to Jacksonville as the first-overall selection in the NFL Draft.
“I’d just have to say, for me, it’s not about living up to the expectations because it’s something that I’ve been doing ever since I was a little kid,” Walker said of living up to expectations since he became a top football player.
“I just feel that once I get the opportunity, I just maximize the opportunity that I have and do my best at it. I can’t worry about what everybody else has to say.”