Kevin Walter (Getty Images)
Houston Texans wide receiver Kevin Walter represents all which is good in professional sports. Walter is an extremely hard worker who was nearly out of the game before receiving his opportunity with Houston two years ago. Since then, Walter has resurrected his career and earned respect of his teammates and coaching staff, as well as opposing players in the league.
The 6’3”, 214 lb. receiver from Eastern Michigan was a seventh-round draft pick by the New York Giants back in 2003 (255th overall), and after being waived by the Giants, Walter earned a spot on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad as a rookie. After being promoted from the practice squad back in October of 2003, Walter hung around on the Bengals active roster throughout the 2005 season, mostly as a special teams contributor.
Despite earning a NFL paycheck for the better part of two and a half seasons, Walter was hardly considered a star, as he caught just 29 passes during his tenure in Cincinnati.
The Bengals found Walter to be expendable, and Cincinnati’s loss almost immediately became Houston’s gain. Walter contributed on special teams and as a reserve wideout in his first year with the Texans, and set a great example to some of the young players with his hard work. Walter’s head coach, Gary Kubiak said that he wished he had 52 Kevin Walter’s on his team.
“It feels good for him to say that because I go out there and bust my tail each practice and he’s noticing that,” said Walter. “And he knows how hard I work and how much pride I take in my work. And it feels good for a head coach to say that.”
“(General Manager) Rick (Smith) and I were talking about him before we came over here to you guys," Gary Kubiak told the media after practice Wednesday. "He’s turned into a heck of a player. He’s a special worker, he’s a great kid and he’s managed in taking his skill and expertise. What he’s done is take it to a new level. Nothing would surprise me; he’s a very accountable kid. His teammates count him so you know I think about him.”
In 2007, Walter went from role player to major contributor, as Texans Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson missed seven games and Kevin Walter helped pick up the slack. Walter entered 2007 with just 47 career receptions for 456 yards with one touchdown in four seasons, and broke out as he led the Texans with 65 receptions for 800 yards and four touchdowns. Walter’s break out season has certainly helped his confidence—
“It helps me obviously with experience and helps my confidence because I know I can go out there and make plays. From day one I’ve always known I can go out there and start, and be a solid starter and contribute to the team. But you know obviously I got to keep proving myself this year, proving to my teammates and my coaches that I deserve to still be out there.”
With Johnson healthy and ready for a big 2008 season, Walter may not put up the statistics he did a year ago, but he will definitely be a great compliment. Walter believes he can take some of the opposing defenses’ focus away from Johnson—
“I definitely can. I feel I can go out there and help create mismatches and help take the double teams off of Dre (Andre Johnson). Not only myself, but we have other receivers that can make plays too, so we’re in this all together.”
Walter is proving himself not to be just a one-year wonder, as he has impressed nearly everyone throughout the first week of Texans training camp.
“It’s what we get paid to do, you know, we go out there and make plays and it feels good to go out there and make plays,” said Walter. “(WR) Andre (Johnson) and all the receivers are going out there and going to get the opportunity to catch the ball, and that’s what we’re doing.”
As talented as the trio of Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, and Andre Davis are, they don’t immediately come to mind as one of the league’s best wide receiver tandems. Kevin Walter thinks they should—
“I’ll tell you the truth, I think we’re a top play making team. We got some speed, we got guys that cover the middle and make plays and we got a lot of weapons. We’re going to run the ball well, we’re going to throw the ball well and it’s going to be an exciting season.”
If Walter keeps up his high level of play it should be an exciting season for Houston.