By David Fong
EVANSTON, Ill. — Every place Randy Walker went, he won football games, influenced young men and, most important of all, touched lives.
So it should come as no surprise that Walker, a 1972 Troy High School graduate, will be inducted into his fifth hall of fame this weekend as a member of the Northwestern University Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
Walker, who was Northwestern’s football coach from 1999-2005, will be formally inducted at a ceremony today, then recognized Saturday during the Northwestern football game against Nebraska. He’s already a member of the Troy Hall of Fame, the Trojan Athletics Hall of Fame, the Miami University Athletics Hall of Fame and Miami University’s “Cradle of Coaches.”
Walker passed away unexpectedly June 29, 2006 at the age of 52 in the midst of his coaching tenure at Northwestern.
“He did touch a lot of peoples’ lives,” said his widow, Tammy Walker, also a Troy High School graduate and her late husband’s high school sweetheart. She will accept the honor on her husband’s behalf and is in honorary team captain for Saturday’s football game. “I think the fact he coached at two schools — and both asked him to come back — says a lot about his legacy.”
In Walker’s time as head coach at Northwestern, he became the third-winningest coach in school history. He was the first Wildcat coach to lead three different teams to bowl games and the first coach in school history to lead three-straight teams to four or more Big Ten victories.
Walker won 37 games, including a Big Ten co-championship in 2000. He led the Wildcats to appearances in the Alamo Bowl (2000), Motor City Bowl (2003) and Sun Bowl (2005).
“This is very exciting,” Tammy Walker said of her husband’s most recent honor. “Obviously we are very honored and very humbled. I’m sure Randy’s response would be that he owes everything to his players and his assistant coaches. I’m sure he’d also be very proud he is being recognized.”
Walker played halfback and defensive back on the 1970 and 1971 Troy football teams that went a combined 20-0 and are widely regarded as two of the best teams in school history. He was named first-team All-Western Ohio League as a junior and senior, in addition to being named honorable mention All-Ohio as a senior.
Following his graduation from Troy High School, he went on to play at Miami University. In Walker’s final three years at Miami , the Redskins (now RedHawks) went a combined 32-1-1, finishing the season ranked No. 15, No. 10 and No. 12 in the nation.
Miami won the Mid-American Conference all three of those years, then went on to defeat Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the Tangerine Bowl (now known as the Capital One Bowl).
Walker was named the team’s most valuable player following his senior season. He finished his career at Miami with 1,757 rushing yards. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 13th round the following spring and spent the preseason with the team.
He would end up returning to Miami University in the fall of 1976 as the team’s running back coach, where he would stay for two years. In 1978, he took the same position at the University of North Carolina, taking over as quarterbacks coach in 1982 and offensive coordinator in 1985.
He would make his first coaching stop at Northwestern in 1988, coaching running backs for two years. In 1990, he would accept his first head coaching position, as he returned to coach his alma mater.
His first season at Miami, Walker’s team went 5-5-1 after winning just two games the previous two years combined. Walker would go 59-35-5 at Miami from 1990-98 — including a 10-1 mark in his final year.
During Walker’s coaching career at Miami, his team’s knocked off several ranked opponents, including No. 25 Northwestern (1995), No. 12 Virginia Tech (1997) and No. 12 North Carolina (1998).
Tammy Walker said her husband enjoyed his time coaching at both Miami and Northwestern — and both schools’ commitment to both athletics and academics made them perfect fits for her husband, who valued student-athletes who excelled on the football field and the classroom.
“He felt very lucky he was able to coach at such similar schools,” she said. “They both really were the perfect fit for him.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong