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Bryan Walters: Big Red Bolt of Lightning

Merriam Webster defines electricity as a “fundamental form of energy observable in positive and negative forms that occurs naturally or is produced, and that is expressed in terms of the movement and interaction of electrons.” I define electricity as “Bryan Walters.” Now, for those of you that have been living under a rock, Bryan Walters is the subject of perhaps the most eye-popping highlight reel in Cornell history. This Cornellian holds many impressive titles: Ivy League graduate, NFL wide receiver, Super Bowl Champion and video game cheat code.

Cornell’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards, return yards and return touchdowns hails from Bothell, Washington. It was here he would forge the work ethic necessary to develop his rare combination of Ivy League intelligence and NFL athleticism. That work ethic would bring him to Cornell in 2006, where he became the most dangerous returner in school history. In addition to returning kicks and punts, Walters was a deep threat in the receiving core, having a career-long touchdown reception of 96 yards in 2008. However, despite being an undeniably productive receiver and graduating as the Ivy League’s all-time leader in return yardage, he was only named to second-team All-Ivy as a senior. When draft day in 2010 came around, Walters was once again slighted. Undrafted and underrated, Walters would fight an uphill battle forever carrying the title of “Undrafted Free Agent.” When asked how this affected how others viewed his ability and what this title meant to him, Walters said:

Being an undrafted free agent in the NFL was very difficult but an amazing challenge at the same time. As an undrafted free agent, nobody in the organization expects you to be on the team. You have to prove to them day in and day out why you deserve a roster spot. I have seen many undrafted free agents who were better than drafted guys that did not make a team solely based on them being undrafted. As for me, being an undrafted free agent motivated me. It kept me wanting to prove people wrong, and prove to myself that I belong in the NFL just like a top draft pick does.

Determined to make a lifelong passion into a career, Walters let his play determine his value. Not his draft status. Playing for a contract and for a fair chance, he forced coaches to take notice of the electric playmaking ability that made him a college standout and a future Madden 16 force to be reckoned with. Offered his first contract with the San Diego Chargers, he took that opportunity and ran with it, going on to spend time with the Seahawks, Vikings and Jaguars.

The mental leap from college to the NFL can often be the most challenging adjustment for young players to make. However, that Ivy League education that we all love to brag about served him well. It is obvious that natural intelligence is helpful when learning something new. But this, compounded with great college coaching, eased his transition. The intricate techniques and assignments that must be learned as an NFL wide receiver can baffle the common fan. In Walters’ case, he was faced with the challenge of learning these techniques from four different coaches during his time in the NFL.

To put it simply, there are only so many routes you can run in the game of football. Every route I had at Cornell I also had in the NFL. The big differences come in the techniques of the routes and how to run them. Do you outside release, inside release, inside stem, outside stem? etc… All that varies coach by coach. I have had four different receivers coaches throughout my time in the NFL and every single one of them taught different techniques to the same routes.

As dazzling as his return highlights were, his receiving highlights could have broken the internet if they were filmed in better quality. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that there is video proof that Bryan Walters perfected the art of reaching back for a one-hand snag years before Odell Beckham Jr. did.

Walters would find himself proving people wrong throughout his entire career as “Undrafted Free Agent” was not the only label placed upon him. Ironically, there are only two places on this earth where Cornell grads get looked down upon: The NFL and Harvard. For the last half-century, not many NFL scouts have parked their cars at Schoellkopf, waiting with bated breath to find the next Randy Moss or Peyton Manning. Wherever Walters went throughout his career, Cornell would follow. His degree came with many doubters and what I’d assume to be some very unoriginal jokes. But like a true Cornellian, he took it in stride and embraced it.

Cornell has been a large part of my identity in the NFL. Everywhere you go people are shocked that a little Cornell grad could make it in the NFL. I brag about going to Cornell all the time with my coaches and friends. And also get a few jokes cracked at my expense for being the “smart guy.” One of my favorite things about my career path through the NFL is the fact that my path was different than most guys. I didn’t go to a big time football program out of the SEC or Pac 12. But I came from an IVY league school not known for their football program.

Whether it has been thrust upon us or we have willingly taken it on, the title “Cornellian” comes with many connotations. Something tells me that NFL wide receiver isn’t one of them. Nonetheless, Bryan Walters has done his best to change that.

As great as his efforts on the gridiron have been, they cannot compare to the impact he has had on the Madden world. A true champion of the common man, Bryan Walters was never a 99 overall player. He was never a cover athlete like Mike Vick. But he was flat out good. The kind of guy you can count on to convert a long fourth down from your own 25, because no one punts in Madden. Walters is victim to perhaps the greatest injustice I have ever seen in the video game world. To have a speed rating of 86, is an insult to the John Madden. If John Madden were to tragically pass away, he would immediately start rolling in his grave. As a seasoned Madden player, I know my way around Franchise mode. When I say that Bryan Walters was the cornerstone of my team in Madden 16, I am not lying. My thumbs got tired from clicking the X-button to throw him the ball so much. When asked what being my favorite Madden player meant to him, he responded:

I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t love videogames, so hearing that people use me in Madden always brings a big smile to my face even though they have my speed rating way too low in that game. I really need to work on getting that changed somehow.

He did not comment on whether or not being my favorite Madden player meant more to him than winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks…but I think we all know what his answer would have been.

As the New York Jets are poised to make a Super Bowl run this year, there seems to be no area in which they need to improve. This franchise is firing on all cylinders. But I cannot say the same for the garbage fire that is the New York Giants. My advice to both teams: Get Bryan Walters on your team! The Jets could use a downfield threat to instill the fear of God in the rest of the league. When it comes to the Giants, their wide receivers are either partying on boats or on the operating table. If the Jets want to clinch the AFC East by week 10, they should break out their checkbook and pay the man. If the Giants actually want someone to make the Pro Bowl this year, SHOW HIM THE MONEY! If you don’t think he’s ready to compete, read this:

I have played football since I was 5 years old, so staying in a football mindset has never been tough for me. I love the game. I love the feeling on game days and love looking back at the work I’ve put in to get to where I am at. At some point, yes, the game will come to an end for me. But as of right now, keeping the football mindset and staying in football shape is something I am used to doing and will continue to do hopefully for another couple of years.

In all seriousness, this is a player we can all root for: A man who brings his lunch pail to work day-in and day-out. By day, he’s proving draft scouts wrong; by night he’s responding to the emails of a Cornell freshman looking to write an article. He’s an Ivy League man with SEC talent. I am sure I am not alone when I congratulate him on what he has done so far, and wish him luck with what is to come.

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