Following Thursday’s practice, running back Kenneth Walker III discussed preparing for his second season in the NFL.Maliik Obee
At the conclusion of Thursday's organized team activities, second-year running back Kenneth Walker III took the podium to look back on his 1,050-yard rookie season and what's to come in 2023.
Last April, Seattle selected Walker with the 41st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. After a fractured fibula ended running back Rashaad Penny's season in October, Walker III stepped up in a major way. In 15 games, the Michigan State alum rushed for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns, both totals leading all rookies in 2022. Walker joined Seahawks Legend Curt Warner as the only rookies in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards despite starting just 11 games. In March, Penny signed with the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency after five seasons in Seattle, yet Walker keeps in contact with his former mentor.
"I FaceTimed him not too long ago," said Walker. "So we talk. He really helped me out with everything, like on the field, things off the field. You know? He's telling me what to expect and what the coaches expect out of me. So he wanted to see me do great."
Despite receiving the most first-place votes, Walker ultimately lost the 2022 NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year Award to New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson. But there's no hard feelings from the second-year back towards New York's budding star.
"I thought I was going to win it," said Walker. "But Garrett Wilson is a great player though, so let's not take it from him. But yeah. Kind of frustrated, but it happens. I can't make those decisions, so I've just got to come out here and do my best and get better."
A rushing touchdown from Walker wasn't enough in the 2022 NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs, as Seattle fell 43-21 to the San Francisco 49ers. After 15 games and a playoff loss, Walker is beginning to see the game differently, as he continues to adjust to pro ball.
"Yeah, it's much easier," said Walker. "You know, I know the plays. I know what to expect on offense and from the defense, so it's much easier. My head's not spinning from when I first got here."
In Week 7, Seattle defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 37-23 on the road in big part to Walker's two-score, 168-yard performance. Just weeks after filling in full-time for Penny, the game finally "slowed down" for the rookie.
"Probably the Chargers game really," said Walker. "When everything slowed down. After the first start versus the Cardinals, it was fine, but then the Chargers game is when I felt really comfortable."
Walker broke off a huge 74-yard touchdown to change the fate of the game and boost his self-confidence in his abilities.
"I got a lot of carries that game so then, I got into a rhythm and so once I got into a rhythm, I felt real comfortable."
Year 2 provides Walker with a chance to duplicate or ascend his rookie production, as Seattle continues its quest to build a championship competitor. But it's also a chance for him to be a mentor now to rookie backs Zach Charbonnet and Kenny McIntosh.
"It feels good," said Walker. "I just hope I can be a mentor to the running backs that are younger than me. Like Shad (Rashaad Penny) was to me. So I just hope I can guide those guys in the right direction."
Walker commented on what he's seen from McIntosh and Charbonnet so far in OTAs.
"(McIntosh) is great too," said Walker III. "Him and Zach (Charbonnet), they're great. I feel like when I came in, I knew my stuff, but at the same time I was kind of doubting myself or whatever. But they seem really confident, and Kenny's the same way. And he's great."
Seattle will depend on the Tennessee native to lead the backfield on the ground and as a receiving threat. After 19 receptions combined in his time at Wake Forest and Michigan State, Walker was on the receiving end of 27 passes for 165 yards in 2022.
"I mean, I can catch the ball," said Walker. "In high school I was a wide receiver and a running back. And then when I got to college I was in an offense that really didn't throw the ball. They didn't really throw the ball in college. And so, I guess a lot of people around the league or whatever didn't think I could catch, but, you know, Shane (Waldron) and everybody believed in me up here and they've been passing me the ball more."
Despite having his own personal goals for getting the league-wide respect he deserves, Walker's belief in Seattle's culture can pay dividends in the Seahawks quest to get back on top in the NFC West.