INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been a good start to the NFL Combine for Mark Walton, and the teams he’s been meeting with here seem drawn to the grit that got him through unimaginable heartache to reach this point.
Walton left the University of Miami after an injury-hampered junior year and is here to prove that wasn’t a mistake. As he tries to push his way up draft boards, he’s getting a lot of questions about losing both parents, including the death of his mother a year ago Friday.
Those tragedies have scarred him, but they’ve also molded him into a man who’s tough enough to handle anything that awaits him.
CORAL GABLES — The University of Miami is trying to find a starting quarterback. Mark Walton gets it.
UM is thin at running back. Walton gets that, too.
The football? Walton isn’t getting that.
“I don’t like being babied,” Walton said of his lack of carries this spring.
Walton insisted he’s not frustrated but sounded every bit like a player who is following Tuesday’s practice.
“The running game, I can’t say too much because I’m on a blocking diet,” Walton said. “Blocking more than running the ball in scrimmages.”
How strict a diet? Think kale. After the Hurricanes’ second scrimmage, which was closed to the media, coach Mark Richt said Walton had “a couple carries for 4 yards.”
There are plenty of reasons. Richt needs time to evaluate his quarterback “pecking order.” The Hurricanes have only one other healthy running back (Travis Homer). And with Walton coming off a 1,117-yard season last year as a sophomore, it would appear he has proven he can run the ball.
“I hope so,” Walton said.
Richt confirmed the obvious: “Mostly wanted to see the quarterbacks in the scrimmages.”
As for Walton’s beefs, Richt didn’t seem at all concerned.
“We all know Mark,” Richt said. “It’s a given that he loves football. He wants to play. He’d carry it 50 times if you’d let him. Some guys are like, ‘Hey, 15 to 20 is enough for me, coach. I’m making business decisions.’ This kid just loves football. He loves trying to help us win.”
Considering Walton ran for 14 touchdowns in 2016, Richt has no doubt Walton can affect the win total in 2017.
“I’ve got no question in my mind what Mark is capable of doing and will do given the opportunity,” Richt said.
It’s unknown whether that opportunity will come in Saturday’s final spring scrimmage at Boca Raton High, which is closed to the public.
“I’m not saying we won’t give him a few totes here in the game,” Richt said.
Walton isn’t holding his breath.
“I hope I get some carries,” he said. “ … I don’t really think I’m going to play too much.”
For his part, Walton said he recognizes the emphasis on pass protection, especially with inexperience back there.
“As a running back, you’ve got to block, protect the quarterback,” Walton said. “If you can’t protect the quarterback, I don’t think you should be out there.”
So, what’s the issue?
“I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated,” he said. “I’m just — I’m not used to it right now. Just going through that state.”