Devontez Walker first talked the talk, then walked the walk when it came to playing wide receiver.
Walker had shown promise at defensive back for West Charlotte’s junior varsity as a freshman during the 2015 season. But a desire to play receiver prompted Walker to make a request of the coaching staff as his sophomore year approached.
“We were heavy on receivers in the program, so we put him at corner and free safety,” said West Charlotte head coach Josh Harris, who was an assistant at the time. “He was doing very well. But coming into his 10th-grade year he said, ‘Coach, I can really play receiver.’ He was told, ‘No, you’re a corner.’ But he said, ‘Coach, please, just give me an opportunity to play receiver.’
“Well, he got that chance in a JV game against Vance. After he caught a touchdown in the game, he ran over to the sideline and said, ‘See coach. I told you I can play receiver.’ So we put him in at receiver that day and never looked back.”
Walker would earn a promotion to the West Charlotte varsity later that year before earning All-I-MECK 4-A Conference honors as a receiver last season. Highlights of his junior campaign eventually reached the East Carolina coaching staff, which extended a scholarship offer in March. The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder decided to accept the offer June 11th, choosing the Pirates over offers from Campbell, Liberty, West Virginia and Western Carolina.
East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery and receivers coach Keith Gaither made a strong impression on Walker when they attended a West Charlotte basketball game to watch him play, according to Harris. Walker, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for a squad that also featured nationally-ranked small forward Patrick Williams and guard Cartier Jernigan, produced an impressive performance that day.
An invitation to attend ECU’s Junior Day in mid-March followed and included a scholarship offer for Walker. Harris said Walker was sold on the Pirates after spending a day on campus and watching spring practice. Walker was especially impressed watching ECU senior receiver Trevon Brown in action.
“He enjoyed practice and seeing how the staff interacted with the players,” Harris said. “He liked that everyone got individual attention. Devontez was amazed watching Trevon Brown, how he worked and how talented he is. Devontez has aspirations of going to the NFL some day. I think watching him (Brown) and the one-one-one coaching the receivers received convinced him they could help him get where he wants to go.”
Walker, who also runs track for the Lions, produced impressive performances on both sides of the football last season. He made seven tackles against North Mecklenburg, while collecting interceptions in consecutive contests with Philip O’Berry Academy and Lake Norman. In one of West Charlotte’s five wins against Hopewell, Walker had two receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown on offense and made three tackles on defense.
But Harris cites Walker’s effort against state powerhouse Mallard Creek last October 6th. In a 33-0 setback against the Mavericks, Walker excelled by making five catches for 125 yards, including one 51-yard catch.
“We joke around Charlotte that Mallard Creek is the Alabama of North Carolina,” Harris said. “You kind of measure your success by Mallard. If you can compete with them you’re in the right company.
“He had over 100 yards receiving against them. It got to a point where they were putting two people on him, and he was still coming down with the ball. The go route is his bread-and-butter. Nine times out of 10 if you throw the go route in his area he’s going to come down with it. We lost the game, but that performance sticks out because of the impact we had throwing in his direction.”
Harris said Walker reminds him in some ways of former Charlotte Independence High and Georgia Bulldogs receiver Mario Raley.
“Devontez is way more raw, but the way he stretches the field reminds me of Mario Raley,” Harris said. “He reminds me of a young Mario Raley. He’s our best player. He doesn’t come off the field. He even punts for us, and his longest last year was 63 yards. He’s Mr. Everything for us.”
Walker is in the process of determining if he can graduate from West Charlotte in December, which would allow him to enroll at ECU in January 2019. If Walker is able to join the Pirates in January and participate in spring practice, Harris believes he could make an immediate contribution as a true freshman.
“I believe he can come in as a true freshman and be an impact as an outside or inside receiver,” Harris said. “He’s a gamer. When he steps between the lines a switch goes off. He’s very quiet and reserved off the field. But on the field he turns into an animal. And he loves to win.”