Like so many of his teammates, left tackle Rasheed Walker didn’t want to leave on a bad note. If nothing else, he knew he had more to offer Penn State before he headed off to the next level.
“I have a few personal goals that I am still trying to reach,” Walker said earlier this week. “I want to make first-team All-Big Ten. I’m focused on getting that All-American. The team has a lot of goals, obviously to have a championship season, so that’s why I came back. I really feel like we can accomplish those goals this year.”
Accomplishing goals isn’t the only thing Walker wants to do. Winning is nice, but so often the alignment of personal and team goals can go hand in hand. Much like receiver Jahan Dotson who writes “legendary” atop his practice notes every day, they know that as a team – and as individuals – they can all take the next step.
There are little things that help in this quest too. Like for instance simply having spring practice, it’s more time to build chemistry on and off the field, more time to practice, more time to have more time. If nothing else, it’s a whole lot more normal.
“Last year, I felt like we didn’t have a spring, so basically, we just went into fall camp,” Walker said looking back. “That was the first time we got to run plays together. It took a little bit of time. We had to make a few adjustments, but I feel like Week 6 was the week that we all were just on the same page.”
Much like Dotson and the rest of the returning NFL-hopefuls like Tariq Castro-Fields and Jaquan Brisker the time now is spent on the little details. Penn State may have started 0-5 in 2020, there’s no getting around that, but the Nittany Lions did some things well and were often not all that far off from winning. Penn State losing by the nose of a football in a Week 1 loss against Indiana may not have been in the Nittany Lions’ control, but there were little things along the way that could have turned the tide.
If nothing else, it’s a reminder how thing the margin for error can be, and in turn how important paying attention to the details truly is.
“We’re all going to be technicians. We’re all going to be very disciplined. We’re all going to finish. We’re all going to play nasty, hard-nosed football,” Walker said. “Because that’s how we’ve been practicing and training, so it has to translate. I’m confident when I say that.”
As for Walker himself? If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.
“I feel like I’ve taken a big step in the way I’ve been attacking things since I came back,” Walker said. “I’ve improved my workouts, practice, meetings, lifts. It started with winter workouts. I attacked winter workouts, and it’s just all starting to translate.”
Do that across the board and Penn State will be well on its way to a better 2021.