James Walker works out with the Jonesboro football team as it prepares for the start of spring practice. The freshman has already received two football offers. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — James “MJ” Walker hasn’t played a high school football game.
In fact, the Jonesboro freshman has not suited up in a helmet and shoulder pads since playing quarterback for Rex Mill Middle School during the 2011 season.
But college football coaches have been impressed with his physical make-up and potential athletic ability.
“He definitely passes the eye test when you see him,” Jonesboro football coach Tim Floyd said. “He is tall and has great athletic ability when doing conditioning drills.”
Atlantic Coast Conference schools Clemson and Miami coaches have been so impressed that they offered the freshman a football scholarship. The Hurricanes were the first to offer earlier this week while Clemson made a verbal offer on Thursday morning.
The news was a shock to both Floyd and Walker, who helped the school’s basketball team to the Class AAAA championship in March.
“From the people that I’ve talked to, they say he might be a better football player than basketball,” Floyd said. “I’m really excited for him.”
Walker, who is 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, averaged a team-leading 15.3 points and five rebounds per game as Jonesboro went 29-6 and claimed the programs first state title with a win over Columbia at the Macon Coliseum.
“It was a real shock when coach Floyd told me about the offer,” Walker said. “It just shows that people are watching you when you don’t know about it. I know I’m capable of playing football.”
In fact, football was his first love. Walker had a verbal offer in basketball from Auburn before the SEC school changed coaches in the offseason.
“I’m not sure if it is still there,” Walker said of the basketball offer.
There will certainly be a lot of college coaches attending the Cardinals spring practices, which run form May 2-15, to evaluate Walker. So far this spring, three players on the Cardinals team has scholarship offers.
Sophomore quarterback Zerrick Cooper has offers from Miami, Kentucky, Clemson and North Carolina State. Junior defensive back Jordan Griffin picked up his first offer from Kentucky earlier this week.
All three played on the basketball team.
Floyd said Walker will play safety and wide receiver in addition to getting a shot at quarterback. He was a wide receiver on on Rex Mill’s Clayton County Middle School Championship team as a seventh grader. As an eighth-grader, he led Rex Mill to the county basketball championship.
“I think I bring a lot of leadership and a hard work ethic,” Walker said. “I want to do what I can to help this team win.”
Walker said he would have played football this past season, but was coming off an ankle injury after playing AAU basketball.
In 2012, he attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, and was reclassified as an eighth-grader. He didn’t play football for the Class A school.
“Some people have asked why play football and risk the chance of injury,” Walker said. “I always tell them that my injuries have all came in basketball. You don’t come out thinking about getting hurt. When you do, that’s when you get injured. I’m ready to go out and play this season.”