CORAL GABLES — Mark Walton is back on the practice field.
Walton, UM’s star tailback, was using crutches to aid his gait at Tuesday’s practice. He had a boot on his right leg. He also had a helmet on.
“He thinks he’s going to be back tomorrow, if you ask him,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “Which is a good thing.”
Walton won’t play again this season after right ankle surgery following the Florida State game Oct. 7, but has been a part of special teams meetings and running backs meetings. Even though he’s no longer a part of Miami’s game plan, he’s involved from a motivational standpoint.
“He’s a fighter,” said defensive end Demetrius Jackson, who was Walton’s high school teammate at Miami’s Booker T. Washington High. “That’s really encouraging to see him out here showing the camaraderie.”
Walton was the ACC’s top tailback before his injury. He rushed for 428 yards and three touchdowns on 56 carries in three-plus games before FSU linebacker Jacob Pugh fell on his ankle during the fourth quarter of UM’s 24-20 win in Tallahassee.
Coach Mark Richt said he wants all injured players, if physically able, to at least join the post-practice huddle. Walton’s doing that and more, he said.
“I don’t know where it hits a player, whether it’s when they lay their head on the pillow at night, they get in the tank or get bummed out about it,” Richt said. “His spirits have been really pretty good considering he got hurt. The good news it’s an injury that’s very repairable, and a ‘you’re as good as new’ type of situation.”
Senior left tackle Kc McDermott said Walton’s presence makes a practice brighter.
“It’s just awesome to have him around,” McDermott said. “I remember when he came crutching in after his surgery, the entire room just lit up. He’s a great kid, he works hard, he does everything right, you can’t ask anything more from someone than that. And, it’s exciting to see him anytime, you know, he’s always smiling, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kid not smile.”
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