By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Jordan Walker has some pretty big shoes to fill this season for the Eastern New Mexico University football team.
The freshman from North Richland, Texas, near Fort Worth, is being asked to replace four-year place-kicker Lee Price, who converted 34-of-59 field goals and missed on only six of 120 extra point attempts in four seasons.
Walker made an impression on ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo at the end of Friday’s morning practice, kicking four consecutive field goals at the end of the session, the last from more than 40 yards.
“We just threw him in there today with no preparation, and he made four in a row,” Ribaudo said. “That’s pretty good for a green kid.”
ENMU has an intrasquad scrimmage, open to the public, on tap for 9:30 a.m. today at Greyhound Stadium.
For Walker, stepping into a program as a freshman is nothing new. He did it at Birdville High School, helping his team to two Class 4A playoff appearances.
He has a relatively laid-back approach.
“It’s 50 percent mental and 50 percent how you strike the ball,” the 5-9, 160-pound Walker said. “You can have all the mental stability around, but if you can’t get it through the uprights it’s not going to work.”
Walker said expectations may be a little higher following Price, but he’s not concerned.
“There’s a little pressure,” he said. “But if you miss (a kick), you just come back and do it the next time.”
As a youngster, Walker played soccer. He tried football when that squad was looking for a kicker, and never had a desire to play another position.
“I let (his teammates) play (those positions),” he said. “Kicking is what I do. If that’s what gets me here, I’ll stick to that.”
The Hounds, who were in pads for the second time this week on Friday morning, have looked good so far, Ribaudo said. He admitted, though, that he’s concerned about some early injuries, notably a knee injury suffered on Friday by starting free safety Mark Patterson.
Ribaudo said he wasn’t sure how long Patterson would be out.
That said, he noted that competition for positions has been fierce early on.
“All I can do is compare it to last year,” he said. “There’s more competition. One side (of the ball) is not dominating the other side.”
He said he expects the Hounds to improve on last year’s 3-7 record as long as they can stay healthy.
“I just think our overall talent level is better,” he said. “We have a lot of seniors (on offense) at key spots like running back and quarterback, and we have a lot of talented youngsters in the line.
“Defensively, we’ve got a lot of kids moving around and hitting. Today we had a better day than yesterday.”