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When people speak of great athletes in Oliver Springs, one name that always comes up is Eddie Walls.
Walls was a great baseball and football player for the Bobcats between 1979-1982 and he would go on to have an equally impressive career at Austin Peay State University before graduating in 1986 as one of the school’s all-time great linebackers. He was inducted in the Austin Peay Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004 and his 146 tackles during the 1986 season still rank second all-time for the Governors.
Walls was back in Oliver Springs recently as he was the guest speaker at the 2011 Oliver Springs High School Athletic Banquet in April. Walls, who now lives in Orlando, Fla., was more than happy to make the trip home to speak at his alma mater.
“Anytime good people ask me to help I’m happy to do so and when (Oliver Springs Booster Club President) Allen Morgan called me and asked me to speak, I was glad to help,” Walls said. “I haven’t been home a lot since I graduated, but it’s always great to come home. It’s always good to see people that care about you and you care about.”
Although Walls has been gone for nearly 30 years, he still remembers his playing days at Oliver Springs and how much he loved the purple and gold.
“I remember that Oliver Springs had a reputation as a hard-nosed football team. We were a school built on pride and team unity, that’s something you find in a lot of small town communities,” he said. “I’ve been gone over 25 years, but I still have a lot of fond memories and I built a lot of close relationships that are still strong today.”
After graduating high school in 1982, Walls went on to Tennessee Military Institute where he played with former Tennessee great William Howard that fall. The following spring, Walls enrolled at Austin Peay State University and he went on to have a great career that included his All-OVC and honorable mention All-American 1986 season where he recorded his eye-popping 146 tackles.
Like all good teammates, however, Walls was quick to spread the credit.
“I was fortunate to have some good defensive tackles in front of me,” he said. “Anytime a linebacker can make a lot of tackles it’s because he has some good defensive tackles keeping the offensive line off of him.”
Next up for Walls was every player’s dream, a chance to play in the National Football League (NFL). Walls signed a free agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants until a freak play ended his career.
“We were about four weeks into camp and I made a tackle on a dive play,” Walls remembered. “When I got up there was a wide receiver and defensive back that were fighting and they fell into the back of my leg.”
That freak play would lead to Walls having torn knee ligaments for the second time in his career, only this time there would be no coming back as he did from a similar injury during his junior season at Austin Peay.
Walls admits the injury was depressing, but he also knew that it happened for a reason.
“It was disheartening,” he said. “I was 23 at the time and I had spent most of my life playing football and suddenly it was over. But that’s when you have to turn it over to God and know that He has a plan for you and His plan will be executed.”
That experience was something Walls spoke about at Oliver Springs’ banquet, as he was able to tie it into the importance of getting a good education.
“When you’re young you think you’re going to play forever, but the odds are very slim in any sport that you will become a professional. I told the kids at the banquet that they need to study hard, stay focused and prepare for the future.”
Walls also told those in attendance at Oliver Springs’ banquet to be thankful for their family. Walls lost his father, Ted, when he was in high school and he reminded those athletes in attendance that their parents make a lot of sacrifices for them.
“My dad died when I was 16 and it was tough,” Walls said. “He was 41 and he went to work one day and didn’t come home. He died of a massive heart attack.
“I want young people to realize how blessed they are. When you’re young you think you know everything, but as I got older and had kids of my own I now realize what sacrifices they went through. Your family will always be there for you and I think it’s important to take the time to say ‘thank you’ to them.”
Walls also challenged the Bobcat athletes in attendance to push themselves to be the best they can be.
“What price are you willing to pay?” Walls asked of the athletes. “Coaches always appreciate those players that put in extra time and effort and you have to evaluate how much time and effort you’re willing to put in. Some put in enough time to be on the team, other to start and some even put in enough time to be a captain or even an all-american.”
Now 47, Walls owns Extreme Synergy Corporation in Florida and being a successful businessman is allowing him to give back to the community he calls home.
Walls has started the Ed Walls scholarship fund that will be given every year to an outstanding student athlete at Oliver Springs.
Walls will also be back in Oliver Springs next month from July 18-22 to host the Ed Walls Extreme Football Camp. The week-long camp will feature several college and NFL players including former San Francisco 49er defensive back Eric Wright and former San Diego Charger running back Chuck Muncie.
“I think the kids are going to have a great time,” Walls said. “We will have pro and college athletes at each position. I’m excited that we’ll be able to make this happen for the kids in and around Oliver Springs. We’re also going to donate the proceeds from the camp to the school.”