Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III Selected by Seattle Seahawks in Second Round of NFL Draft
Walker is the first Spartan selected in the NFL Draft under Tucker
EAST LANSING, Mich. (MSU Athletics) - Michigan State All-America running back Kenneth Walker III, the winner of the 2021 Doak Walker Award and the Walter Camp National Player of the Year, was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round (No. 41 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft on Friday, April 29.
Walker is the highest Spartan running back drafted since T.J. Duckett was chosen in the first round (No. 18 overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft by Atlanta.
Walker, who transferred to Michigan State from Wake Forest in 2021, electrified the Spartans in his only year wearing the Green and White, sparking the team to an 11-2 record and a Top-10 finish in the national polls (No. 8 Coaches, No. 9 Associated Press).
A unanimous first-team All-American who became the first Spartan to win Doak Walker Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Walker ranked second in the FBS in rushing in 2021 with 1,636 yards (136.3 ypg). The Big Ten Running Back of the Year and the AP Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Year also ranked eighth in the FBS with 18 rushing touchdowns. His 1,636 rushing yards were the fourth most by a Spartan in a single season in school history; he was the fastest Spartan to reach 1,000 yards in a single season in terms of carries (153 carries). In addition, his 18 rushing TDs tied for fifth most in an MSU season and his 19 overall TDs (one receiving score) tied for fourth most.
According to Pro Football Focus, Walker led the FBS in rushing yards after contact (1,168) and ranked second with 89 missed forced tackles; he also ranked among the FBS leaders in 20-plus yard carries (first with 21), 10-plus yard carries (tied for third with 46), yards from scrimmage (sixth with 143.8 ypg), rushing TDs (eighth with 18), carries (eighth with 263), scoring (11th with 9.5 ppg), total TDs (ninth with 19) and rushing yards per carry (15th with 6.2 avg.).
A Maxwell Award finalist who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, Walker had eight 100-yard rushing games in 2021, including two 200-yard games (264 vs. Northwestern on Sept. 3; 172 at Miami on Sept. 18; 126 vs. Western Kentucky on Sept. 25; 233 at Rutgers on Oct. 9; 197 vs. Michigan on Oct. 30; 136 at Purdue on Nov. 6; 143 vs. Maryland on Nov. 13; 138 vs. Penn State on Nov. 27).
Following a record-breaking performance in the 37-33 win over No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 30, Walker collected several honors, including National Offensive Player of the Week (Walter Camp Football Foundation, Maxwell Award, The Athletic) and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Walker rushed for five touchdowns, the most by any player ever against the Wolverines, and finished with a total of 197 yards on just 23 carries (8.6 avg.). His scores came on runs of 27 and 8 yards in the second quarter, 1 yard in the third quarter, and 58 and 23 yards in the fourth quarter. He also had 208 all-purpose yards (197 rushing, 11 receiving). The five TDs tied for the second most in school history (record: six by Blake Ezor vs. Northwestern in 1989; five by Javon Ringer vs. Eastern Michigan in 2008).
Walker’s 94-yard touchdown run in the third quarter at Rutgers on Oct. 9 was the longest rush in the 125-year history of Michigan State football, bettering a 90-yard by Lynn Chandnois vs. Arizona in 1949. It was also the longest offensive play from scrimmage in school history, topping a 93-yard pass from Tony Banks to Nigea Carter vs. Indiana in 1994. Walker finished with 29 carries for 233 yards against the Scarlet Knights.
Walker had a record-setting debut as a Spartan, rushing for a career-high 264 yards – the seventh-highest total in school history – while scoring a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Spartans past Northwestern on Sept. 3. It marked the most rushing yards by a Spartan in a debut wearing the Green and White. Walker became just the second Spartan to record more than 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the same game (Eric Allen, school-record 350 yards and four TDs vs. Purdue on Oct. 30, 1971). On his first carry as a Spartan, Walker sprinted 75 yards to the end zone against the Wildcats.
Walker finished his three-year college career with 2,794 rushing yards and 35 rushing TDs in just 32 games. He had 1,158 rushing yards and 17 TDs in two seasons (2019-20) at Wake Forest before transferring to MSU for the 2021 season.
“When I talk to players and scouts about K9, I talk to them about how humble he is, and his humility,” Tucker said earlier this spring. “And how he works. I’ve never seen him loaf – and that’s hard to say about a player. He does not loaf; he doesn’t even know how to. He goes at everything full speed. And he’s just a great teammate.
“I know one thing, he’s going to attack everything, whatever role he gets or whatever team he’s on, he’s going to hit the ground running. He’s going to get after it.”
Walker is the first Spartan selected in the NFL Draft under Tucker.
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