Heading into the offseason, there were a number of Penn State players who had tough decisions to make regarding their futures.
One of those athletes was redshirt sophomore Rasheed Walker, who had an opportunity to move on to the NFL after wrapping up his third year in Happy Valley.
But like some of his teammates, the left tackle decided to stick with the Nittany Lions as he continues to develop and polish multiple aspects of his game.
That desire to improve at the collegiate level is in large part thanks to Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein, who Walker credits with much of his development.
“I thought it'd be best for me to come back and get developed more by Coach [Trautwein],” Walker said.
So as Walker continues to pursue his NFL dreams, he does so alongside Trautwein — who has pushed his lineman to be the best version of himself each day.
“Since I decided to come back, I feel like I’ve taken a big step in the way I’ve been attacking things like workouts, practice, meetings, lifts. It started with winter workouts. I really attacked winter workouts, and it’s just all starting to translate,” Walker said. “Coach [Trautwein] just emphasizes to us to have that dog mentality with everything we do.”
Walker’s determination to improve has led the Waldorf, Maryland, native to set some pretty lofty goals for the falls.
He set goals for himself prior to the 2020 campaign, and with the upcoming season in mind, they may seem more realistic after learning lessons from a 4-5 finish.
“I have a few personal goals that I am still trying to reach, like getting first team All-Big Ten and getting that All-American,” Walker said. “The team has a lot of goals, obviously to have a championship season, so that's why I came back. I really feel like we can accomplish those goals this year.”
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While the 6-foot-6, 312-pound tackle has created ambitions that may be difficult to achieve, he feels confident in being able to do so by the side of a former NFL lineman in Trautwein.
“With him being a former NFL offensive tackle, he sees stuff that not everyone else sees,” Walker said. “So when I first started working with him, I already thought I was pretty good, but as I worked with him more, he just started to point out a bunch of things that I could work on to be better. And as I trusted him and kept working on his techniques and doing drills, I felt myself getting better, and I felt more confident as an offensive lineman.”
So despite a number of NFL scouts and draft experts predicting the physically gifted Walker would be selected this season, there is no doubt in the 21-year-old’s mind that it was the right decision to come back — even if there is some level of risk involved.
“I just looked at it like I have time, it's only my third year,” Walker said. “I can leave, but I can also come back and just invest more of myself by being coached by Coach [Trautwein] for another year to give myself a better shot at the next level.”