Now or never for Darrin Walls


The future is now for Darrin Walls.

There won’t be another season for Irish fans to wonder when the light switch will flip on for Walls, one of the more highly touted recruits on the Irish roster. It’s up to Walls to decide if he wants to be the cornerback that teased Irish fans with a pick-six interception as a sophomore or the cornerback that got beat up and down the field against Pitt and gave up the winning touchdown catch against Michigan.

Former Irish All-American Shane Walton is one person who thinks Walls has what it takes to be the best defensive back on the field. Jim Meenan of the South Bend Tribune had a nice article on the relationship between Walton and Walls, and the work that Shane has done to help Darrin try to live up to his vast potential.

Notre Dame’s last All-American cornerback, Shane Walton, remembers what
he thought of Irish senior Darrin Walls the first time he saw him line
up for Notre Dame four years ago.

“They were playing Georgia Tech
and he was lining up against Calvin Johnson (the future No. 1 pick in
the NFL draft) in man-to-man coverage,” said Walton. “He did everything
he could possibly do wrong, and still almost made the play.”

Two years later when he met Walls at a spring dinner for former and current Irish players, Walton spoke candidly.

“I told him I was very impressed with him,” Walton said. But he also
told him something else he had observed since the opening game of Walls’

Walton told Walls “that he really doesn’t know the game like he should know the game.

“He has all the athletic ability, all the talent in the world,”
Walton said. “But unless that is honed and you have the technique to go
along with it, he will be an average player, which he has been.”

Last season, I spent nearly an hour talking with Walton and while it didn’t make it into my column, we spent some time discussing the problems that plagued the defensive backfield. You could hear the competitor in Walton come out immediately, and he was shocked that a group of cornerbacks that had such a great wide receiver corps to practice against every single day didn’t use that as an advantage and thrive because of it.

It’s good to see Walton giving back to the program, inviting Walls out for a week to spend time with him in San Diego, to work one-on-one and give Darrin some insight into what made Shane such an instinctive and confident cornerback. You can tell from Walton’s own words that there’s a skillset just waiting to be unlocked.

“The biggest thing with Darrin is his head,” said Walton. “If he
believes he can be the best corner in the nation, there is no doubt in
my mind after working with him one-on-one for about a week, that he has
all the tools in the world. He is so smooth. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s tall. He’s athletic.

“But me believing in Darrin is not the same as Darrin believing for himself. Darrin will be as good as he allows himself to be.”

Hopefully a week with one of the best cornerbacks in Irish football history will be a springboard to success. Because it’s now or never for Darrin Walls.