By Steve Irvine
"He's got a nasty streak," Clark said. "He's a guy who, on the field he's nasty, off the field he's one of the best kids you ever want to meet, which is kind of what you want out of a defensive lineman."
A few minutes later, Walton smiled when he heard Clark's assessment.
"There is definitely a switch," said the 6-foot-3, 274-pound Atlanta native. "Off the field, we're all friends, we all hang around each other. When it's on the field, it's a killer mentality. It's something definitely I learned over the years. You can't be a nice guy out there at all."
Walton has been a solid contributor in his time with the Blazers. He's played in 30 games with 13 starts with 45 tackles and 12 tackles for loss. He also played in three games as a true freshman in 2010 but an ankle injury ended his season. He was given a medical redshirt, which allowed him to be at UAB during Clark's first season as the head coach.
"In hindsight, I'm definitely glad it worked out that way," Walton said. "I'm getting to be with Coach Clark and his staff and a great group of coaches. I'm definitely thankful and blessed to be here."
Clark was impressed with Walton's play during spring practice and his performance in the offseason program. He entered fall camp as one of the team leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
"This guy is a playmaker," Clark said. "We're expecting really big things from him."
Versatility has been a mark of Walton's play during his time at UAB, which is important when building depth. Walton is playing defensive tackle but has the ability to line up anywhere up front, including at the Jack linebacker spot.
Wherever he lines up, Clark said, Walton has the same attitude.
"He's one of those guys who really wants to make every play," Clark said. "(Defensive line coach David Reeves) talks to them all the time about `Hey, do your job first and then we'll let you go make some plays.' He wants to make plays first, which is a good thing to have."
Walton relishes the opportunity to finish his college football career in style. When he's done at UAB, Clark said Walton has "a chance to keep playing, maybe, at some level."
If not, Walton already has his future mapped out. He is on track to graduate in December with a major in Broadcast Communications. He wants to be in front of the camera and spent last summer as an intern at ABC 33/40, spending most of his time learning from the sports staff. His dream is to one day be a sports anchor at ESPN.
"When I got to college, math was pretty hard so communications was best for me," Walton said. "I play sports and I'm around it all the time so my thing was why not? All the time, I'll make a script and read off it in front of the mirror."
For now, though, he's content with being the one making the sports news.