Michigan State football running back Kenneth Walker III didn’t get a trip to New York for Saturday’s Heisman Trophy ceremony, but he hauled in two major pieces of hardware on Thursday night.
Walker became the first Spartan to win both the Walter Camp national player of the year award and the Doak Walker Award.
The native of Arlington, Tennessee, beat out three Heisman finalists in Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, as well as Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis. The Walter Camp Player of the Year has been awarded annually since 1967.
Walker is the first Walter Camp Award winner who was not named a Heisman finalist. Three other Camp winners — Notre Dame tight end Ken MacAfee in 1977 award, Penn State running back Larry Johnson in 2002 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in 2009 — finished third in Heisman voting. The last Camp winner to not win the Heisman was Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, 2018’s runner-up.
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Davis won both the Outland Trophy as outstanding interior lineman and the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player on Thursday night. But he and Walker were not among the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy who were announced Monday. Hutchinson, Young, Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud will be in New York for Saturday’s presentation.
For the Doak Walker Award, named for the former Detroit Lions running back and given annually to college football’s top running back since 1990, Kenneth Walker III beat out finalists Tyler Badie of Missouri and Breece Hall of Iowa State.
The junior transfer from Wake Forest rushed 263 times for MSU this season, piling up 1,636 yards (second in the nation) and 18 rushing touchdowns (eighth). His 136.3 yards per game were also good for second among Football Bowl Subdivision backs.
He debuted for the Spartans with a bang, going 75 yards from scrimmage on the first play of the season against Northwestern on Sept. 3. Following that, he set a school record for longest play from scrimmage with a 94-yard run against Rutgers on Oct. 9. That was all topped, though, with his performance against Michigan on Oct. 30: 23 carries for 197 yards and five rushing touchdowns, a record against the Wolverines.
During his post-award interview on ESPN, Walker was all about the Spartans, declining to point to one game that stood out for him and his teammates: “Every game pretty much shows who we are. Everybody fights hard, every game.”
Walker leads the FBS in rushing yards after contact (1,154), 20-plus yard carries (21) and missed forced tackles (89), and is tied for second in 10-plus yard carries (46).
Walker was named the Big Ten Running Back of the Year, as well as first-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media earlier this month. Walker was also named a Walter Camp All-American. He was one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top all-around player, which went to Young.