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Walker hired to coach Falcon football

February 3, 2011

The UW-River Falls football team is under new guidance, with the retirement of former head coach John O’Grady after the conclusion of the 2010 season.

Matthew Walker was hired by UWRF on Dec. 29, 2010 beginning a new era of Falcon football. Walker said that the opportunity is something he could not be more excited about.

“I’m excited to move forward,” Walker said. “I’m excited to not dawn on the past and see what we can do with what is in front of us.”

For Walker, coaching is something that has sparked his interest for as long as he can remember.

“Even before I got to college, there was always something that intrigued me about coaching,” Walker said. “Even as an athlete growing up, there was always something in my blood.”

A three-sport athlete in high school, Walker excelled in collegiate sports, where he played baseball and football at DePauw University. Upon graduation from DePauw, Walker knew that coaching was something that he would want to pursue, not only as a hobby, but as a profession.

“Really quickly into college, I knew that I was going to be unhappy if coaching wasn’t my profession,” Walker said. “I knew that if I didn’t make something out of it, I was not going to be happy with myself.”

Walker enters his coaching era at UWRF with experience on his side. Walker was the assistant coach of the football team at DePauw University from 2000-2005 as well as the head coach from 2006-2009.

Walker furthers his resume by holding a head coaching position of the DePauw men’s baseball team from 2001-2009, a position that he was thrown into as a 22-year old.

Walker said that experiencing the coaching aspect of athletics in a variety of sports has helped him gain perspective and valuable experience.

“It’s different, weird, and unique,” Walker said with a grin on his face. “So for three years I was doing a dual-head coaching thing.”

Walker said he has one thing in mind as he steps into the spotlight replacing O’Grady who had been with the Falcon football program for more then 37 years, intent on changing a program that has been on a downward spiral in the recent past.

“I don’t know any other way to do it in terms of the decisions I make, other than trying to win a championship,” Walker said. “That sounds like a cliché, but I really don’t know any other way.”

Recognizing that the team has obstacles and challenges in front of them, Walker simply looks at the broader spectrum, taking each day as a new opportunity to learn and improve.

“Nobody is happy with what has happened in the past, but the approach we are taking is just moving forward,” said Walker”

Athletic Director Roger Ternes said that Walker was the standout candidate in a strong pool of potential coaches, all of whom had their own personal strengths.

“The five candidates were really all first rate,” Ternes said. “Matt was the one guy who had solid head coaching experience.”

Ternes made the comparison of a student choosing a college when talking about the hiring of Walker.

“When students select a college and are looking at three or four, at some point with all other things being equal it comes down to this gut feeling,” Ternes said. “Matt just felt right for us.”

Walker was quick to point out the rich tradition of football at UWRF, adding that being surrounded by that tradition makes his job very special.

“Long story short, there is a rich tradition of football here,” Walker said. “I think it’s a really neat thing and it’s important for the current players to realize that.”

Walker said he understands the admiration and respect that O’Grady held and continues to hold and strives for that same respect.

“I’ve learned very quickly the respect and the relationship that Coach O’Grady and Coach Farley have with their players, the community, and the alumni,” Walker said. “In the very limited interaction I’ve had with them, I know that they are a testament example of what I would like to become with this community, it’s alumni, and the university.”

Walker said that the opportunity to coach a program like this is something that he does not view as pressure, but rather a chance to work within a system to achieve a goal.

“I’m just the one who is fortunate enough to have the head coaching title,” Walker said. “To me, I’m just a piece of the puzzle and I’m excited to be the one who gets to put those pieces together.”