Kareem Walker’s mom, Angelique Myers, knew her son was something special on the football field at an early age. The ESPN 300 Ohio State commit would spin and juke past defenders as a nine-year old, moves that made Myers wonder how far he could go in the sport.
“I used to tell him he ran like he had skates on,” Myers said. “I even tell him now, before he gets on the field, I tell him to go put the skates on.”
Walker took that potential as an adolescent and worked to become what he is now, the No. 1-ranked running back in the country and an Under Armour All-American. The New Jersey native says despite growing up in a rough area, he set a goal for himself to make it in football and he saw one of his dreams come true when he was presented with his All-America jersey at DePaul Catholic High School.
“It’s an honor for me to play in the Under Armour game because it’s always been the game I wanted to play in," Walker said. "Coming up, I got the chance to see Jabrill Peppers play in it and announce for it. I got to see him go through and I always said I wanted that for myself. He was always a household name for New Jersey, so coming up I really looked up to him.”
That connection with Peppers has been an important one for Walker, but given that Peppers is a current Michigan football player and Walker is committed to Ohio State, it raises some natural questions.
The two programs are bitter rivals, so how does Walker feel about potentially playing against Peppers in the near future? He says their relationship won’t change one bit.
“I talk to him all the time and he’s really like my big brother, and a lot of people don’t know but me and Jabrill are close,” Walker said. “Off the field I could call him for anything. It’s never an Ohio State and Michigan thing. That’s my big brother and even when I do get to Ohio State, that won’t change.”
Walker even consulted with Peppers before he made his commitment to the Buckeyes and says that Peppers never really tried to sell Michigan to him or sway him one way. Having gone through the process as a highly ranked prospect, Peppers knew it was about what was best for Walker and no one else.
“Even with him going to the team up North, he never tried to recruit me,” Walker said. “It was always him saying he knew what I’m capable of and he knew I was going to be a good player wherever I went.”
Walker has checked a few boxes off his to-do list with committing to Ohio State and participating in the Under Armour game, but he still has a few more goals to hit. Hugging his mom as his name is called in the NFL draft is one, and if that happens one day, Myers said her son made a prophetic statement as a toddler.
“When he was really young, he picked up a football and said, ‘Mom I’m going to be rich one day and you won’t have to worry about anything,’” she said.
To reach that goal, Walker is going to use the same formula he did to get where he’s at now. Remain focused, work hard and go put his skates on.
What players are you looking forward to competing with or against at the UA All America game?
I definitely can’t wait to see my teammates. I definitely want to play with Jarrett Guarantano. We have always wanted to play with each other. That didn’t work out as far as college, but we will get our chance to be with each other and I’m happy about that. I’m not really looking at any particular person to compete against.
If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?
Jarrett Guarantano. Quarterback, I learned it’s the most important position on the field. You can have All-Americans at every position, but if the quarterback isn’t good then it’s a problem. Jarrett Guarantano, Dwayne Haskins, Shea Patterson, all the top quarterbacks I would pick to start my team with.
What was your earliest football memory?
I quit football two years in a row before I decided to really stick with it. That was fourth and fifth grade and then my sixth grade year was the first year I decided to stay. It kind of worked out for me that I decided to stay, I turned out to be an All-American. I don’t know why I quit, I was used to playing in the street with the older guys. When I went to practice I was playing offensive line and I was shaking older kids at running back, so it was sort of why I quit.
If you could take on any pro athlete in their sport, who would it be?
Floyd Mayweather. It would be a good outcome no matter what happens in the ring, it’s a good outcome at the end of the fight. Floyd Mayweather or LeBron James. I hope to meet LeBron when I get to Ohio State.
Why do you wear your number (6)?
When I score, six will go on the scoreboard.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I grew up really rough. A lot of people ask me about football and don’t ask me about how it was coming up. Growing up, I saw some crazy things in my neighborhood that people shouldn’t see. I was able to remain focused when seeing those things. I was able to stay focused and that’s something that people don’t really know. I credit it some to my mom, my grandmother. My dad passed away. For the most part I like to take a lot of responsibility. I’m still young, but I like to push myself. When it’s 5:30 in the morning and it’s time to get up for school, I don’t like to put it on grandma to wake me up. When she’s knocking on the door, I’m already up. I take responsibility for myself.