On Thursday afternoon, Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III made an announcement via Twitter regarding his status for the Spartans’ upcoming Peach Bowl game versus the Pittsburgh Panthers. In a move that was largely anticipated, Walker has decided that his days as a collegiate athlete have come to an end. He will forgo the Peach Bowl and prepare for the NFL Draft.
The announcement reads:
“Spartan Nation: It has been a true honor to represent Michigan State University and wear the Green and White. I am beyond grateful to Coach Tucker and the entire staff for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to shine under their leadership. As the regular season has come to a close, I would like to announce that I have decided to forgo playing in the Peach Bowl to begin preparation for the NFL Draft.
I would like to thank God, my family, teammates, fans and all my coaches over the years for helping me become the player and man I am today. I WILL FOREVER BE A SPARTAN DAWG. #SD4L”
Walker accumulated a long list of awards during his first and only season in East Lansing. Among others, he became the first Spartan to win the Walter Camp National Player of the Year award, and the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s best running back. Walker was also named as unanimous first-team All-American as well as the Big Ten Running Back of the Year.
Walker finished the season with 1,636 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, five of which came in the Spartans’ thrilling 37-33 win over the Michigan Wolverines and one of which came on his first carry as a Spartan on the road against the Northwestern Wildcats (75 yards).
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker had the following to say about his star running back.
“I want to congratulate Ken for all of his success and thank him for taking a chance on us,” Tucker said in a statement also posted on Twitter. “From the day he set foot on campus in January, he has done nothing but work extremely hard and represent Michigan State University with class. He quickly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches, and they were happy to share in his success and accolades. He is a special player and I’m proud of everything he was able to achieve this season. K9 will always be a Spartan Dawg.”
As the Spartans move forward in preparation to face the Panthers on Dec 30, sophomore Jordan Simmons will likely see an increased workload in the Peach Bowl for MSU. Simmons had the second-most attempts at the running back position (54) as well as the second-highest number of total yards (255).
In addition, junior Elijah Collins, Auburn transfer and junior Harold Joiner, and freshman Donovan Eaglin are also in the mix to carry the rock. Like Simmons, Collins — who missed — six games this season with a foot injury — is likely to see a lot of carries if he is healthy.
No. 10 Michigan State (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) will play No. 12 Pittsburgh (11-2, 7-1 ACC) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The game will be televised on ESPN as part of the New Year’s Six.