Manassas Journal Messenger | Moving forward
Former Hylton star D.J. Walton and former Stafford star Thomas McClelland have something to prove at Virginia Tech — albeit very different things.
This fall, McClelland is gearing up for a golden opportunity as one of a handful of walk-ons on the Hokies football team. Walton, on the other hand, is back in Prince William County after being kicked out of Virginia Tech this semester for a second DUI charge.
Walton first grabbed headlines on the Bulldogs back-to-back state championship teams in 1998 and 1999. He was a do-it-all performer, a highly recruited defensive back who also had offers from Penn State, Wake Forest and Georgia.
After two years at Tech, one of them as a redshirt, Walton worked his way to second on the depth chart behind DeAngelo Hall at the cornerback position. He also made 10 tackles in limited duty in 2002.
However, his football days temporarily came to a halt when he got two DUIs this past year, the first of which, according to defensive coordinator Bud Foster, the football team didn’t even know about. Because of the latest incident, the school suspended Walton from school, which means no games until 2004.
”I know D.J. is very disappointed in himself,” Foster said. ”He feels like he let down his family, his friends and his teammates.”
Like his former high school coach Bill Brown, Foster said the coacheswere ”shocked” at the incident, saying Walton is a terrific kid with a great family. Unfortunately, coaches can’t baby-sit the players around the clock, said Foster, which means a lot of free time during the off-season for a young man at a large state university.
”Kids will be kids,” Foster said. ”You try to educate them on things like that. Ultimately, they’ll have to make the right decision.”
Walton, who couldn’t be reached for this story, could be back in school in the winter of 2004 and would be eligible to participate with the team for spring practice. Foster, for one, will be excited to have him back.
McClelland’s job, on the other hand, will have to earn that excitement all over again.
In high school, McClelland toiled in relative obscurity until leading the Indians to the Group AAA, Division 5 state championship game despite a bum shoulder. After rushing for 2,548 yards and 27 touchdowns, McClelland was named the Virginia High School Coaches Association Player of the Year and the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger Player of the Year. Still, he never got a Division I-A scholarship offer.
Being a walk-on means plenty of hard work on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom, said McClelland. That shouldn’t be anything new for a kid who was complimented for his toughness by virtually every Phoebus player after the Phantoms beat the Indians in the state title game last fall.
As he battles for what he hopes will be some playing time in the near future, McClelland would do well to know the story of Will Montgomery.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive guard was an all-state defensive lineman for a Centreville team that lost in the Group AAA state championship game to Deep Creek in 2000.
A stud on both sides of the ball, Montgomery only got offers from William & Mary and Richmond, both Division I-AA schools. Montgomery eventually choose Tech because he wanted to prove the recruiters at Maryland and Virginia wrong. Now, he’s second on the depth chart at left guard and confident he made the right decision.
”When I came in here as a freshman, the first day [of practice], I was pretty nervous,” Montgomery said. ”But once we had full-speed drills, I knew I fit in here. There wasn’t anything that I couldn’t overcome.”
”Obviously, I have to work real hard just to play,” McClelland said. ”But I think in a couple of years I’ll get to play, as long as I stay injury-free.”
McClelland got a head start this summer, hitting the weights hard. A former skinny 150-pound high-school freshman, the 5-11 McClelland is now topping the scales at just over 200 and is lifting 450 pounds in the squat and 275 in the bench press. As a senior in high school, he weighed just 185 and maxed out as 375 in the squat and 240 in the bench press.
”That was the first time I weighed 200 pounds in my life,” McClelland said. ”I was pretty stoked.”
The extra bulk should help McClelland when he begins full-contact practice against much bigger, tougher competition than he faced in high school.
”It’s been a good experience,” said McClelland, who has talked with Foster about playing defense but will play wherever the staff needs him to. ”It’s a whole new ballgame [in college]. It’s great to play for a team of this caliber. I hope everything works out.”
Here’s hoping the same for Walton as well.
Kipp Hanley is a staff writer for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8047 or e-mail him at [email protected]