Just under two months ago, January 8th to be exact, Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker announced that he would be returning for his senior season after an impressive junior campaign that put him into the conversation of whether or not he would forgo his final year of eligibility.
After Thursday's fourth-quarter drills, Walker addressed the media for the first time since finalizing his decision and went into some detail on what brought him to his final decision of playing for the Seminoles for one more season.
"I feel great in my decision coming back," Walker stated when asked about how the start of his final season has been. "Being that team leader has been a great experience so far."
As he elaborated further, it became clear that Walker's reason for returning was threefold. His first such reason was the chance to be a leader on the 2016 team. After all, Walker is the only member of the 2016 defense that has logged multiple starts in each of the last three seasons. This lends itself into Walker emerging as the leader of next year's defense, a duty that he seems ready and willing to perform, saying, "I thank Coach Fisher for giving me the role and I thank my teammates for letting me lead them."
Fisher reciprocated in his own comments: "DeMarcus, Dalvin, some of those guys there are some excellent leaders in that group that are doing a really nice job in that regard."
Secondly and more personally important to Walker, he acknowledged returning to school due to a desire to improve his skill further at the collegiate level, confidently stating, "I have a lot more to prove. I feel that I can be the most dominant player in the country."
Walker has made no secret of the fact that he attributes a large portion of the emergence he made last year (10.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles) to FSU's defensive ends coach Brad Lawing, who joined the Seminoles before the 2015 season. Despite the success a season ago, Walker believes that Lawing has a lot more to teach him.
"There's more to learn. When I announced that I was coming back for my senior year, he and I had a long conversation about my expectations and what I can do better."
Walker also admitted that Lawing played a big role in his decision to stay in Tallahassee for one more year, a true testament to Lawing's history that has seen him coach two top-ten draft picks in South Carolina's Jadaveon Clowney and Florida's Dante Fowler Jr.
The third and final reason that led to Walker's decision was the expectations for Florida State as a team entering 2016, citing young players who have been stepping up in fourth-quarter drills including sophomore receivers Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray as well as redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois.
On the other side of the coin, Walker did not want to leave after the 2015 season that left a sour taste in his mouth. He expressed that a ten-win season is not up to the standards set forth by the history of the Florida State football program and that he knows this team can do better.
As such, he has made a point of stressing to the entire team how important it is to finish games, something that the Seminoles failed to do in each of the three losses in 2015. However, Walker also noted that the inability to finish last year has served as a motivation for Florida State as the 2016 preparations have gotten underway, showing itself in the form of good execution and effort throughout the entirety of fourth quarter drills, which end today.
In the end, only time will tell if Walker's decision to spend one more year at FSU will help, hurt, or have little effect on his draft stock and professional career. One of the few things that is assured at the moment is that Walker is very happy with his decision and has the evidence to back it up.