The Chattahoochee Valley has a long history of producing elite football talent.
Former Carver defensive back Tim Walton’s proud part in that tradition will be recognized on February 20 when he is inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
When committee chairman Jim White called with the news in September, Walton was honored to find out he would be joining fellow talented Carver alums Brentson Buckner and Daryll Jones in the hall of fame.
“It’s the culmination of your total body of work,” Walton said. “In an area that’s talent rich the induction into the hall of fame is a great honor. It’s an elite group of men and women that’s come through the area.”
On the football field, Walton remembers Jones setting the standard for success in the area. Jones was part of Herschel Walker’s freshman class at Georgia and went on to play for Green Bay and Denver in the NFL.
Walton followed in Jones’ footsteps then watched others fill his own shoes.
“Nate Odomes came after me and was a second round pick who played in the Super Bowl,” Walton said. “Even after my class in ’89 the guys the number of guys the last 10 years who played major college football and in the NFL is impressive.”
While Walton didn’t have the same kind of NFL career of Odomes, the defensive back led the NFL in interceptions in 1993, or Buckner, an 11-year vet also drafted in the second round (1994), he continues adding to an impressive coaching resume that includes a BCS National Title.
Phenomenal skill and will
Walton couldn’t hide his shortcomings at Carver High School.
Discussing his career, Walton remembers being a gawky 5-foot-8, 160-pound freshman whose appearance didn’t scream Division I athlete.
“I knew my limits,” Walton said. “When I walked through the door, I wasn’t passing any kind of eye test.”
While the majority of student-athletes might have considered a different path than the physical game of football, Walton found motivation in his limitations.
“The odds were stacked against me, guys were bigger, faster and stronger, but I couldn’t control my size,” Walton said. “I did have control of my toughness, work ethic and knowledge of the game. I controlled how much I prepared and studied.”
They are the same attributes Walton has continually relied on during his coaching career.
Before he put them to good use on the sidelines, his personal drive helped him defy the odds as a player leading Carver to the program’s first playoff win as a two-way (quarterback, defensive back) starter his junior year.
The 21-7 quarterfinals win over Valdosta was considered one of biggest upsets in state history.
“They were a major, major football factory,” Walton said. “We knew they had talented guys, but we had a great class that wasn’t going to back down. We put it all together and thought we could play with them.”
Walton remembers a relaxed atmosphere in the locker room before kickoff that carried over into the game.
“It was the way we started,” Walton said. “We took the ball down early and I threw an early touchdown. We showed in the first quarter that we weren’t going to back down in that environment. We were playing to win and I think it surprised them.”
Walton’s success at Carver gave him his pick of top collegiate programs. He had options to play both quarterback and defensive back at the next level with both Wisconsin and Syracuse pursing him to play offense.
“I could have stayed closer to home and gone to Clemson or Auburn, but I went to camps there and just wanted a different experience,” Walton said. “At the end of the day, I narrowed it down to Michigan, Syracuse and Ohio State.”
Walton would make the same decision today as he did 25 years ago picking Ohio State.
“I had to make a decision that would be best for my long-term career,” Walton said. “I wanted a chance to play in the NFL and the best fit was at defensive back. I also wanted a complete school.”
As a Buckeye, he started 25 games from 1990-93 with 159 career tackles. He was co-captain his senior season on an Ohio State team that tied with Wisconsin for the Big Ten Title.
Walton went undrafted in 1994, but was signed to the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. His NFL career ended up lasting less than a season.
“I hurt my neck in camp and got released,” Walton said. “I was disappointed it didn’t last longer, but I couldn’t let it bother me. I had to keep it moving.”
Walton embraced the turning point knowing the end of his playing days wasn’t the end of his career in football.
Walton didn’t spend six months on the unemployment line following his brief stint with the Falcons.
The coach that recruited him to come to Ohio State Gary Blackney brought Walton on as a defensive graduate assistant at Bowling Green.
After three years working with running backs with the Falcons, Walton found success as a secondary coach. His lengthy resume includes stops at Memphis, Syracuse, LSU and Miami.
He coached LSU’s secondary for Nick Saban during the team’s championship season in 2003. LSU had one of the best passing defenses in the country that season ranking 18th nationally (185 yards per game).
“It’s the best year I’ve had to date,” Walton said. “I learned from one of the best coaches to ever do it. He was the best in the business and to study under him was a great experience. The championship is a memory that will last a lifetime. There are guys that go their whole career without winning a National Title or Super Bowl.”
Walton continued his collegiate coaching career at the University of Miami for the 2004-07 seasons. In 2005, the Miami Hurricanes had the nation’s best secondary, allowing only 152.2 yards per game. In 2009,
Walton found himself back in the NFL when he accepted a job to coach the Detroit Lions secondary in 2009.
“I enjoy competition, and the 32 teams in the NFL are the highest level,” Walton said. “It’s the elite of the elite.”
He coached in the NFC North until 2012 then spent one season as the St. Louis Rams’ defensive coordinator.
“It was an easy transition, it didn’t matter the position,” Walton said. “I knew technique. I didn’t have great talent, so I had to be coachable. I took all that — the discipline and attention to detail — to help develop young players.”
Last year, he joined the New York Giants staff as the team’s secondary coach. His status with the organization was briefly up in the air when Tom Coughlin stepped down at the end of the season.
When the team promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach, he decided to retain the team’s defensive coaching staff.
“I’m blessed and fortunate,” Walton said. “I have the same enthusiasm in 2016 as I did when I entered coaching. I’m excited to come back and see how far we can go.”
Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football follow him on Twitter @wareagleextra and Facebook facebook.com/wareagleextra
Age: 44 years old
High school: Carver High School
College: Ohio State University
Ties to Columbus: Walton attended Carver High School and led the program to its first postseason win as a two-way starter in an upset over Valdosta.
You need to know: After a successful collegiate career at OSU, was signed to the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad. An injury cut short his time with the Falcons and he decided to transition into coaching. He was part of LSU’s defensive staff when the program won a national title in 2003. He made the jump into the NFL coaching pool in 2009 as the Detroit Lions secondary coach. Walton is going into his second season with the New York Giants in the same role.