Note: The following appears in the Lousiana Tech soccer game software.
Landon Walker grew up in North Wilkesboro, and NC Football was large in his family, with his father, Gary, on the Clemson National Championship team in 1981.
North Wilkesboro is also a hotbed for NASCAR.
It’s fitting that football and racing are such a big part of Walker’s life.
“Where I grew up in North Carolina, racing and NASCAR were a huge part of the culture.”
Walker followed NASCAR as a young man, but was all about playing football. He excelled in high school, then accepted a scholarship to play for head coach Tommy Bowden at Clemson. He entered in January 2007, one of four Tigers to enter a class early, an unusual occurrence in those days.
Walker was late in the 2007 season, but was ready as a start in the offensive left tackle under assistant coach Brad Scott in 2008. He started 49 of 53 games and played 3,131 shots, the third in Tiger’s history, from 2008-11. He earned his degree on August 13, 2011, then played his final year of eligibility in fall 2011.
Walker was a 2011 veteran who helped Dabo Swinney and the Tigers end 20 years of frustration when they won the ACC title.
“It’s rewarding to be one of the guys who laid the foundation for what we’re seeing today. Beating Virginia Tech in 2011 was one of the most memorable games of my career.
“That was a big deal, but I also remember defeating Florida State. I looked at Florida State as our main competitor when I was in school. I especially remember the 2011 game (Clemson win 35-30).”
Walker signed a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals in the spring of 2012, but was unable to get through the team physically due to osteoarthritis of the knee.
While many former Swinney players use Clemson’s experience to advance their football careers, many use the experience to start their careers in other careers.
“When I finished playing football, I spoke with Tracy Sweeney (Dabbo’s brother). He knew Jimmy Kitchens, who was a spotter for NASCAR’s Ryan Newman team. He put me in touch with Chris Berkey, pit crew coach at Hendrick Motorsports. He was an scout with Miami Dolphins, so we had a connection.
“My experience with Clemson Football gave me a platform to step in the door with Hendrick Motorsports.”
He invited Berki Walker to come to Hendrick Motorsports’ “group”.
“I didn’t know what was involved until I went to this combine with 20 other guys. Being part of a race team is very physical. We train with a strength coach a few times each week.”
Walker was still in very good shape after preparing for Camp Bengals. He made the team, and by his second season, Walker was the fuel for Casey Kahn’s team, a position he held for four years.
Walker is now in his fifth year with William Byron’s car. As of September 5, Team Byron was second in the NASCAR Cup Series standings and scored six Top 10 finishes.
A look at a YouTube video of Walker’s role as an “over the wall” member of the pit crew shows why former athletes work for NASCAR pit crews.
One of his Clemson Walker teammates, linebacker Jonathan Willard, is Jackman for Team Chip Ganassi Racing.
The NASCAR season spans 38 weeks, and is one of the longest professional sports seasons in the United States. However, Walker only travels on weekends, only a few times on race day.
This allowed Walker to start his own business in addition to his unique weekend job. In 2015, he founded a trucking company, and his fleet of 10 trailers was providing services to FedEx.
Walker’s only regret is that his current schedule doesn’t allow him to watch a lot of Tiger football.
“With a 38-week schedule, I don’t have a lot of free weekends to go to the Clemson Games.
“I am following the team closely and am very pleased to see two of my former teammates (Thomas Austin, Tyler Gresham) working on the Dabo Sweeney crew as full-time coaches.
“I met my wife in Clemson. She knows what football weekends are about. I look forward to bringing my kids to the Clemson games and showing them where their dad used to play.”