Walt Aikens Perseverance speaks volumes as he reaches the NFL

Dolphins_Walt_Aikens_2014

I asked the talented defensive back and one of the newest member of the Miami Dolphins how he would explain the position he was in currently. He said “God has put me in a great position”. The Liberty Alumni explained to me that he is not only put in this position to become an NFL legend, but he understands with his great communication skills mixed with his talent on the field can help him reach out to children in a way very few can and will.

Walt Aikens graduated from Harding University High School where he was “The Man” on campus. He was never suspended and was a tri-athlete. He won state championships in track, became one of the best dunkers in the state, and of course one of the best football talents out of Charlotte in the last 20 years. Aikens was awarded the Old Spice Player of The Year in North Carolina and also All-Queen City Offensive player of the year. He received offers in all three sports but he explained that he was more passionate about football. As he committed to take his talents to the fighting Illini in Champagne, Illinois over Clemson and Louisville he was ready to live up to the hype. As a true freshman Walt started in five games at safety and also won Freshman All-Big Ten honors. Walt was able to excel as a freshman because of the confidence he acquired throughout his high school career. Walt began to hear the NFL talk throughout his freshman year. The deeper he got into his career the talk became more prevalent.

During the off-season of his freshman year, for the first time in his life Walt was in the middle of trouble over a laptop that he did not own, whom he borrowed from a friend. The situation had become so messy and taken out of context that Walt Aikens was kicked off the football team at Illinois. He knew that his parents had instilled Core Values in him and even though he disappointed them, they were ready to accept him for the mistake he made and help him get back on the right path. Aikens decided to go to Liberty over Tennessee due to him not wanting to sit out a year. He eventually had to sit out a year due to NCAA sanctions, but Walt throughout 2010 practiced with the practice team so he could keep getting better. In 2011 Aikens played for the Liberty Flames and led the Big South in forced fumbles. He felt like “he had something to prove”. Even though Walt had to deal with all the critics, he felt Liberty gave him a clean slate and a fresh start.

Walt Aikens finished at Liberty with an impressive year and had the confidence to finally reach for his dream and become an NFL player. Aikens was not invited to the NFL combine, he said this did not discourage him it only made him hungrier for his success. There were 26 pro teams at Liberty’s pro day, he explained to me during the interview “If I could not go to the combine, I would just bring the combine to me”. He proved to be a great talent for the NFL as the Miami Dolphins selected him 125th overall in the 4th round.

I asked Walt his opinion on critics when he reads scouting reports on himself and they explain that he has trouble with his foot speed or lacks to diagnose run-pass reads, he explains that negativity from critics is motivation. Adaption has been key for Walt, as he has had to adapt multiple times from Illinois to Virginia and now to Miami. Practicing and living in Miami is a plus while living out your all time dream is sweet taste after all the up’s and downs he has been through.

With two Harding alumni in the NFL currently ( W.Aikens and James McCray) this shows the community that if you work hard enough for your dream and you have the drive, you can be successful! Walt would also like to remind high school football players who are deciding on a school to play collegiate football, find a system that fits you. It is not always about going to the biggest and best school. Which brings me to Walt’s next point, go somewhere where you will thrive and succeed!

-Cameron Carter

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