It didn’t take Jesse Walker long to figure out that football was his calling. A fairly gifted soccer player growing up, Walker stepped onto the gridiron for the first time midway through grade eight, and the rest is history.
“My first game, I scored five touchdowns I think, and then I was like, okay, this is something for me, I can tell,” Walker said.
Walker, a native of Mission, B.C., has proven ever since his first game that he’s not only a playmaker but an ironman as well. He barely took a play off in his four seasons at Mission Secondary School from grades nine to 12.
“Coming from a small school, we didn’t have many kids who played football – there were maybe 25 on our roster, which is barely enough for guys to start both ways,” Walker said.
“I played offence, defence, I played kicker, I played kick returner, I played punt returner, I played punter. I didn’t leave the field, I was just off to the side getting a drink of water, and then I’d go back on.”
Without a doubt, Walker was the MVP for his squad, and the statistics back up that statement.
In grade 11, he had 2,131 all-purpose yards, as well as 26 tackles, six interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. He followed that up with another stellar season his senior year, with 3,048 all-purpose yards, 25 tackles, and four interceptions.
Walker’s talents in high school were noticed not only by CIS schools, but universities down south as well. A total of 12 contacted Walker, with Purdue and Nevada showing the most interest.
Ultimately, though, he chose to stay in Canada, noting that head coach Brian Dobie made him feel comfortable from the beginning of the recruiting process in grade 11 until he made his final choice to attend the University of Manitoba for the 2015 season.
“Coach Dobie made me feel a different kind of way with him,” Walker said. “He actually showed me outside of football, even if I didn’t make it past a year, he would still be there to help me try and figure out my life for the next three to four years at the University of Manitoba.”
Midway through his rookie campaign, it looks like Walker made the right decision. He claimed a starting spot at slotback in training camp, and has currently hauled in 21 receptions for 358 yards, and three touchdowns. His total receiving yards are good for second on the team so far this season.
“As a freshman, it’s been pretty tough, because you’re trying to learn everything at the same time, but it’s all coming together now,” Walker said.
With the departure of former Bison Nic Demski to the CFL, it’s fair to say that Walker has filled the Mr. Everything role in the receiving corps quite well. Along with veterans Alex Vitt, Bryden Bone, and Dustin Pedersen, Manitoba has assembled a diverse group of pass-catchers this year, and Walker knows it.
“Our offence here is crazy, we have so much talent and so much depth right now,” Walker said.
“I think there’s a lot of things that are going to feature me this year, and I’m just trying to follow up, to fill the shoes that I’ve got to fill.”