March 17, 2013

Rampage's Dallas Walker is going after next level

The Georgia Rampage will be happy to have Dallas Walker in uniform for the first time.

But if an NFL team calls, and his stay in Dalton is short lived, teammates and coaches will be more than happy for him.

The talented wide receiver will be active for the Rampage’s road game today against the Corpus Christi (Texas) Fury, which begins at 4 p.m. Walker was not active for the team’s Ultimate Indoor Football League season opener two weeks ago — a 74-25 loss to the Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders — because he was on the verge of a live workout in Chicago in front of a handful of NFL scouts.

Walker, a 2012 graduate of Western Michigan, is a natural tight end who is adjusting to the receiver position in the pass-heavy arena format. At 6 feet, 6 inches, he garnered enough attention to receive a tryout last Sunday, around a year after his Pro Day workout just before the NFL Draft.

“Obviously there were some Bears scouts but as for other teams, they didn’t really tell us,” Walker said. “NFL Network filmed the whole thing.”

He didn’t do as well as he would’ve liked in his Pro Day, so getting another chance was a blessing. But Walker is just as grateful for the outlook Rampage co-owners Kacee Smith and Amer Awad, plus coach Mark Bramblett, had for their player’s opportunity.

“They were real cool about it going in,” Walker said. “I found out in September and was able to let them know well beforehand that it would be coming up. Kacee was real cool from the get-go.

“He said, ‘Our main goal is to win games but also to move guys up.’”

Smith and Bramblett both agreed, saying it isn’t their prerogative to hold players back.

“There are some teams out there that have reputations of trying to hinder people from moving on,” said Smith, who also serves as the team’s general manager. “For obvious reasons since they want to win.

“If they move on, then players see that and notice that. If you move on, then you hope you gain two or equal or greater talent.”

Said Bramblett, “We try to tell everybody that we’re one of the lower-level leagues as far as arena goes. You have to build yourself up. Dallas has all the tools to get up there.”

Walker said there were 13 other tight ends at the NFL regional combine — he said there are 10 of them each year around the country — and each position was represented. Of the five categories, he believes he was first in the broad jump and 40-yard dash and tied for first in the vertical jump. He didn’t know his scores. Additionally, there were timing, route running and catching drills.

“It was a long process,” he added. “We were out there for about five hours. They took it real slow from our warm ups to the drills.

“Since day one, whenever I can remember starting to play, my goal has been to play in the NFL.”

Despite playing at the Division-I level, he didn’t get much exposure.

After growing up in Madison, Miss., he was a redshirt freshman at the University of Memphis before transferring to Georgia Military College and then playing three seasons at Western Michigan. He broke his hand in his sophomore year and missed five games. He battled a hamstring injury his junior season. In his senior year, he only had nine catches but led the team in the category due to the offense’s spread attack.

With the Rampage, he is expected to shine as one of the biggest targets on the field and a go-to option for quarterback Joel Statham.

“The tallest cornerback Corpus Christi has is 6-1,” Bramblett said. “Their best one from the first week is just 5-9.

“He is a tight end playing a receiver position in the arena, and defensive backs just can’t handle it. When corner backs jam him at the line, he’ll just go through the jam. And down near the goal line, he’ll just out jump defenders for the ball.”

Additionally, Walker has seen one area of his game improve solely due to the nature of indoor football. Instead of having a wider field with more space for routes, he is having to do everything quicker and in less space.

“He said the precision of the routes from the indoor game has helped make his route running better for the outdoor game,” Bramblett said.

Walker watched the Rampage’s preseason scrimmage and the season opener from the sidelines. He said it was tough, especially in the last game, to stay off the field. But he also didn’t want too much attention from his peers.

“Everybody has been cool about it and now that it’s over with, I’ll wait to see if I get the shot but in the time being I’ll tear it up with the Rampage,” Walker said, noting he could be called for a private workout between now and next month’s NFL Draft.

The Fury won its first game 70-37 against the Missouri Monsters. Bramblett sees a ton of difference between Corpus Christi and Lakeland. In the Rampage’s loss, there were seven turnovers and three fumbles snaps from center Robert Stephens to Statham, who threw four interceptions and was under constant pressure.

Tino Roland, of Monroe, is the team’s new center, Bramblett said. He has previous experience in the UIFL and recently was cut from the Albany Panthers, a Professional Indoor Football League team.

“Corpus won’t be as physically big (as Lakeland),” Bramblett said. “Their ends are more the same size of ours. They’re more of a speed team.”

The Rampage also struggled on defense, allowing the Raiders to score on each possession except when the halves ended.

“We changed a little bit of our coverages on defense,” Bramblett said. “I feel better about this game than the first one. We got a game under our belt, got some guys some game experience and it woke up some of our guys.”

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