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High Profile: Kenyatta Walker

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

THE ROOKIE YEAR

To many, it would have been something worth forgetting. But to Walker, the Bucs first round pick in 2001, his rookie season was both a learning and humbling experience. Walker, who gave up a number of sacks and also intermittently drew the ire of his teammates, struggled at left tackle. "Man, that was the good, the bad and the ugly," Walker said. "I asked to be thrown into the mix and they did. They threw me to the wolves."

THE MOVE

The arrival of offensive line coach Bill Muir and veteran left tackles Roman Oben and Lomas Brown, gave the Bucs some room to try Walker at the right tackle spot during training camp. Walker had played right tackle at the University of Florida. It didn't take long for the coaching staff to recognize that it was beneficial to all to keep Walker at right tackle. Walker welcomed the move and spent the bulk of training camp and preseason adjusting to it.

THE BENCH

After his fourth pre-season game at right tackle, the Bucs made a crucial decision on the week before the opener against the Saints. They benched Walker in favor of Cornell Green, who had not played a game in the NFL. To add insult to injury, Walker was made inactive for the game. "I'll never miss an opening day again in my life," Walker said. "It took something out of me. After that game, I made a promise to myself, the only reason I'm going to miss a game is because I simply can't go. I want them to see a difference when I'm in there."

THE INJURY

The roller coaster ride was not over even after Walker returned to the starting lineup, game two in Baltimore. The following Monday night at home against the Rams, Walker suffered a severe left ankle sprain that sidelined him for the next two games.

THE LATEST CHALLENGE

Back for the last two games, Walker now has the unenviable task of handling Panthers defensive end rookie sensation Julius Peppers. Peppers, a product of the University of North Carolina, is tied for the league lead in sacks with seven. "He's definitely good," Walker said. "I've got his twice this year and I've got him for a long time. So, this could be the beginning of a series of interesting battles."


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  • Defense has Bucs up at half
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  • High Profile: Kenyatta Walker
  • In all honesty, family comes first

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