Larry Walker Jr. brings ‘Aliquippa heart’ to UAlbany football

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ALBANY – UAlbany sophomore free safety Larry Walker Jr. was raised in Aliquippa, a western Pennsylvania city where football means everything.

It’s a small community – population 9,238 by the 2020 census – that has produced Pro Football Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and Ty Law, along with former New York Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who will eventually join them in Canton.

In fact, Walker and Revis are cousins.

Walker recently explained his hometown’s passion for football and why Aliquippa High is so successful in producing great players.

“It’s heart,” Walker said. “That’s all I can say about.it because where we’re from, almost everything we’ve got, everything that happens outside of football, whether it be school, outside in the world, like the streets and all that, football is really our safe zone. When we go there, the coaches ask us, ‘We’re going to take care of y’all, make sure y’all are safe and so as much as we can, so just give us 100 percent.’ I’d say it’s just heart.”

Walker has brought that Aliquippa heart to a Great Dane defense that has played well through the first two games of the season, according to head coach Greg Gattuso.

UAlbany (0-2) takes on Syracuse (1-1) at noon Saturday in the Carrier Dome.

Walker leads the Great Danes with 14 tackles, including nine unassisted, and three pass breakups. UAlbany’s defense allowed just one touchdown in the 16-14 loss to Rhode Island last Saturday, a week after a 28-6 loss to fourth-ranked North Dakota State in which three Bison touchdowns came after Great Dane turnovers.

“His knowledge of the game is ridiculous for a kid his age,” Gattuso said. “He’s one of the best leaders we have on the team right now and he’s a sophomore. Larry’s funny. He literally calls the team in and gives them a talking-to if we have a bad practice.”

While that might come across a brash from a younger player, Walker said he’s holding his team to the same standard he holds himself.


“I just want to see, not only myself, but I want to see everybody, like, do better than me,” he said. “And I want to see us win. So whatever it takes to win, I’m willing to do, whether I’ve got to get on myself and push myself 10 times harder or I’ve got to push other guys older than me by three or four years, whatever I’ve got to do to get the win. I love winning.”

He said he learned much from Revis, an 11-year-pro who also won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots, even though they play different positions in the secondary.

Walker, listed at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, said he was a cornerback as a youngster as the smallest player on the field until he had a growth spurt.

“The reason I watched a lot of (Revis) is, he just played with that grit and that Aliquippa heart that everybody is like, seeing on TV and you get to see him playing man-to-man with no help over the top,” Walker said. “You’ve got to watch that for clinic tape. You can take a lot from the film side of it and the confidence side of things, too.”

They’re both related to former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, another Aliquppa graduate, who is Revis’ uncle.

Gattuso, a Pittsburgh native, knows Aliquippa well. His brother used to live near Walker’s house in that town.

“It’s a very unique environment, very unique community,” Gattuso said. “It’s all driven by football and sports in that town and it does great things for kids.”

 

 

 

 

 

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