Jonathan Walton doesn't pass up chance to play in SEC

dmclemore@thestate.comJuly 19, 2013 

National Signing Day Bayside Feb. 6, 2013

Jonathan Walton of Bayside Academy in Daphne, Ala., signs with South Carolina.

MIKE KITTRELL — Press-Register/al.com

Jonathan Walton knew Steve Spurrier was coming to his school the week before National Signing Day.

That didn't diminish the impact of the legendary coach's visit to Bayside Academy in Daphne, Ala., to see Walton, a linebacker who would commit to and sign with the Gamecocks just days later.

"Shocking, shocking," Walton recalled of Spurrier's time at his his school. "I knew he was coming but it was still pretty shocking."

Walton (6-1, 235) was one of four linebackers to sign with the Gamecocks in February. He enrolled in June in time for the first summer semester.

Walton grew up a fan of Florida and Spurrier. He always wanted to play in the SEC, but that dream didn't seem possible until December.

A Penn State commitment, Walton was surprised - yet excited - to receive late offers from South Carolina, Auburn and Tennessee.

"I had been to camps and I thought the schools that wanted me would have offered by then," he said. "I was fine with Penn State. I had a good time up there. They are nice people. I was pretty set with that, but once I saw that I could go to the SEC, I picked that."

Walton bonded with linebackers coach Kirk Botkin and enjoyed his official visit to Columbia (and the subsequent visit to Daphne from Spurrier). What he liked most was what the Gamecocks had to offer on defense, which lost four senior linebackers after last season.

"They needed linebackers," he said. "They told me they felt like I fit in and that I remind them a lot of Shaq [Wilson]. I'm very athletic, and they said I could fit into their defense."

Walton was born and raised in Alabama. There was a lot of pressure, he said, to stay home and play for Auburn (220 miles away) over South Carolina (535 miles away).

"I've been here all my life and know a lot of people around here," he said. "A lot of people wanted me to stay. Both of them are good places, but I've got my place. I'm good."

Walton said he's excited about starting a new life in Columbia. He expects to spend the summer getting bigger, faster and stronger, learning the playbook, getting closer to teammates and growing comfortable being with a new place.

A three-star prospect, Walton had 122 tackles and three blocked punts during his senior season. He's expected to start out at South Carolina's weakside linebacker spot and feels the battle for the rotation is wide open.

"I'm going to take a shot at it," he said.

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