By Donnell Suggs
Former LaFayette High School linebacker and senior captain Walter Dukes has always been good at multitasking on the field and the same could be said for off the field. A hard worker with the ability to both stop the run at the line of scrimmage and drop back into coverage in order to keep up with receivers, Dukes will need all of his talents in order to take on the next challenge of his young life. This fall Dukes will use his football skills to walk-on at Auburn University. “That was one of my biggest goals,” said Dukes by cellphone on Saturday afternoon.
As I called him to talk about his plans for the fall he answered the phone while on break from his summer job at the Lambert Transport Storage facility in Opelika. With the biggest test of his football and academic career on the horizon, Dukes is using the remainder of his time in town to get better and stronger. “I’ve been lifting weights in the morning and running in the evenings,” he says. He’s also taking summer classes at Southern Union State Community College to better prepare for college curriculum at one of the state’s largest universities.
Dukes’ senior season earned him a few looks from local colleges and despite being offered a scholarship from West Hills College, a junior college in Coalinga, California, he believes his best move is down the road in Auburn. “[Auburn] is a great family school, it’s close to home, it’s in the SEC and it has the veterinary program that I want to study,” he says.
There were plenty of moments from last season that led me to believe that Dukes was going to play football at the college level. The way he, along with several other senior defensive stalwarts, led the Bulldogs defense to seven victories was more than enough proof that the talent was there. His demeanor on the sidelines however, when the team was down or the game was lost is a better indication to this reporter (and I’m sure to a few college scouts as well) that he could handle the ups and downs of a long college football season.
Dukes’ coaches believes he can get the job done at Auburn just like did at Bulldog Stadium in LaFayette. “I wish him the best at Auburn as a walk on,” says LaFayette High School head football coach and Athletic Director James Lucas, who coached Lucas for two seasons. “He will do well for them as he grows and learns more about the Tigers program.” Baseball coach and assistant football coach Michael Pattillo feels the same. “Walter is one of those kids that will put everything he can into whatever he has in front of him,” says Pattillo. “He will do whatever the coaches ask of him and I don’t see him having a problem accomplishing his goal.”
If Dukes is as good a college student as he was a LaFayette High School linebacker then the state of Alabama might have to keep an eye out for it’s next great veterinarian. Of course that is after he plays in a few Iron Bowls.