By Doug Gorman
Eagle's Landing Christian Academy senior Avery Walls is a goal setter when it comes to what he wants to accomplish on the football field.
Getting selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has always been at the top of the list.
The Chargers' senior can now check that one off.
Monday morning in a press conference at the school, Walls officially received his invitation to play in the annual high school football showcase. The game is set for Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 1 p.m. at the AlamoDome in San Antonio. The game will be televised by NBC.
"Ever since I was a freshman it has been a goal of mine (to play in this game) . It's really great to be honored to play in this. I know it wasn't just about football. It's also about character and the way I have tried to treat others in my community. It's been tough trying to get through my four years of high school, but it has really been paying off."
Walls transferred to ELCA this year from Union Grove High School and has helped turn an already good Class A football team into a squad ranked among the state's best teams.
When he joined the Chargers, he became the third senior member of the football team headed to a Division I program. Wide receiver Christian Reeves has committed to play at Virginia Tech, and Matt Rochell is headed to the Air Force Academy.
ELCA athletic director Scott Queen said Walls represents the type of student the school wants walking its halls.
"We haven't known Avery very long, only since the end of July, but he's the type of kid that we try and minister to. He came here and fit right in. He is an incredible kid. He is thankful for his abilities, and you just can't say enough about him, and all of that has to be credited to his mom, and how he was raised," Queen said.
Walls is now weighing his many options. The one thing he does know is he will graduate early from high school. Walls plans on enrolling in school right after the U.S. Army All-Star game.
The only question left to answer is who will win the Avery Walls Sweepstakes. Right now it's wide open.
"I have set up some of my official visits," he said. "Earlier this year I went to Michigan, this Saturday I am going to Oregon when they play Stanford, and the following week I will be at Cal when they take on UCLA."
He has also made an unofficial visit to Tennessee, and he plans on making unofficial visits to South Carolina, Virginia, and Connecticut.
Even though he hasn't picked a school yet, he admits there's a sense of relief knowing he's about to graduate.
"It is academically challenging here," he said. "It's a lot harder, but the teachers work with you. It's only going to further my knowledge and prepare me for when I get to college. You
also get the chance to get a Christian education."
Walls has jumped right in and found a home at the private school in McDonough.
Through four games, ELCA is 4-0 overall and 1-0 in Region 5-A. He has helped anchor a defense that has given up just 20 points and pitched two shutouts, including last week's 35-0 win against First Presbyterian Day School.
Walls has eight solo tackles, 13 assists. He has three forced fumbles and one interception. Because of his athletic ability, the ELCA coaching staff hasn't shied away from playing him on offense. Through four games, he has rushed 17 times for 145 yards and one touchdown.
"Being here has been great," Walls said. "Being on a single-A program, it doesn't feel like that when you are inside the school. Everybody hangs out together and everybody supports each other whether it is sports or academics. It's one of the greater moves I made in my life. I love it here. If I have kids someday and we live in Atlanta, they will be at this school."
Despite the Chargers' fast start, Walls is trying to keep everything perspective.
"There are a lot of good Class A teams out there, and they have just as much talent as we do," Walls said. "It's going to come down to how much we want the state title."
Walls finds inspiration from men and women who are serving in the military as he goes through his senior year and prepares for the all-star game
"There are men and women carrying 80-pound bags in the hot sun, so if we aren't willing to do the same (practice hard), why should we be out here," Walls said about the team's work ethic. "It just come down to the hard work and dedication that we show. We still have a lot of stuff to work on both defensively and offensively."
Bringing home a Class A title might be one of the last remaining high school football goals for Walls, but he also wants to turn in a solid performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"I just want to show everybody the real Avery Walls," he said. "I am not sure where they will have me play. It could be corner or safety, I prefer safety, the critics out there don't think I can play safety because of my size, but when I am on the field, my whole mentality changes."
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl has been a showcase for many players now collecting a paycheck in the NFL, including Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (2004), New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (2005), and Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow (2006).
just to name a few.