SAN DIEGO – The NFL alternately has been described as a gladiator culture, a barbaric facsimile, violent and animalistic.
Play word association with “animal,” and you’re likely to get “instinct” as a response.
Instinct and logic often are spliced into separate corners, pigeonholed as divergent as oil and water.
The Ivy League doesn’t do much to dispel that notion. There currently are 14 alumni on NFL rosters, about half a percent of the 2,580 players that will count toward teams’ maximum numbers once training camp begins. Of those, seven are rookies, most with ominous odds of surviving with their current teams into September.
One of them, undrafted receiver
“I haven’t really seen a big effect. All the guys are great,” Walters said. “It hasn’t played too big of a role. I get some smart jokes every once in a while, but other than that, it’s all fun.”
Ironically, he described Cornell’s offense as less than complex. It turns out their football players spend a lot of time managing one of the most rigorous academic loads in the United States.
What would be a major marketing aspect for him to secure a job with his economics degree turns into something that puts him behind in the NFL.
“Most importantly for me, it’s getting used to the more complex offense,” Walters said. “I played in the Ivy League. We didn’t get too in-depth with things. I think that’s the big thing is all the terminologies. Once I can get that down, I feel like I can excel.”
He almost didn’t have the chance to play football in college. Originally in Seattle, he didn’t have any coaches knocking down his door.
“(Then) I just ran into a random coach at a football camp at Washington State University,” Walters said. “He liked what he saw, took me out there and I couldn’t pass up the Ivy. Going somewhere else for school is an experience I wouldn’t trade.”
Most rookie receivers need a good polish to traverse the chasm between the precision, timing, physicality and speed of college and the NFL. Walters, at 6-foot, 190 pounds, thinks he needs less than most, which could help a football curmudgeon see past his size and measurables.
“If the ball’s around me, I catch it. I think running crisp routes is definitely something (that’s my strength),” Walters said. “Sharp cuts will be my ‘in.’ I think just developing that confidence with the quarterback that, ‘Hey, if I throw it anywhere near him, he’s going to catch this ball.’”
Walters caught 50 passes for 764 yards as a senior, including 10 for 178 and a touchdown against Fordham. He also became the most prolific returner in school history.
Cornell isn’t a likely source for the next Chargers receiver, but Walters has a chance by virtue of his spot on the roster. The Big Red, best known athletically for its run to the Elite Eight this March, can claim one other NFL player, New York Giants guard Kevin Boothe.
Boothe played 49 games and started 16 in his first four seasons.