Tuesday evening news broke that Oklahoma junior defensive tackle Charles Walker was leaving the Sooner football team, foregoing his remaining eligibility, to prepare for the NFL draft. While it certainly isn’t rare for underclassmen to depart school early for the NFL, Walker’s timing is what is causing some uproar.
Walker, a top defensive line prospect, is leaving the team despite Oklahoma still having two remaining regular-season games and a bowl game remaining. He isn’t the first student-athlete with NFL dreams to leave school during the season. Myles Jack did it last year. Although Jack, unlike Walker had been ruled out for the remainder of the season. And perhaps that difference is what caused a strong reaction by OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
“Quitting on your teammates is hard to take, as a coach,” Mike Stoops said. “That’s everything we stand for — our commitment to one another and, for whatever reason, that wasn’t there for him. He thought this was a better avenue so you would have to ask him for those (answers).”
But what drove Walker to leave the team?
Walker suffered his second concussion in less than a year during Oklahoma’s October win at TCU and has yet to play again. Prior to the announcement that Walker was leaving the program he was scheduled to meet with team trainers on Monday and be re-evaluated.
Quitting on his team is one way to look what happened, but what if Walker’s decision was based on giving himself the best possible chance at reaching the NFL and possibly making a salary that most can only dream about.
It should be noted that Charles Walker is a parent.
Parents are often forced to make tough decisions and perhaps this was one of those decisions for Walker.
While we may never know what ultimately led to Walker’s decision to leave the Sooner football team, we do know he feels he made the correct decision for himself and his family. If he were to come back and play later this season and risk suffering yet another concussion, his draft prospects would certainly take a hit.
By opting to leave school now, Walker feels he is putting himself in the best position to succeed in the future. The decision should be viewed no different than a coach leaving before the conclusion of the season to take a new job.
When a coach leaves early, the departure is met with little to any resentment or fanfare. It’s understood that he needs to get to work, doing what’s best for his new team, staff, and university. Players should be treated no differently.
With so much at stake, it seems Charles Walker was left with only one choice, and we should not fault him for that.
Cody Junot joined College AD in November, 2014 as a contributing writer and was shortly promoted to Associate Editor in July, 2015. Cody graduated from UL Lafayette in 2011 with a degree in Sports Management.