Unsurprisingly, Walker becomes the first Spartan selected in this year’s draft. Last year, Michigan State’s 80-year long streak of having at least one player drafted was snapped, as zero Spartans head their name called during the 2021 NFL Draft. Now, MSU will hope to start a new streak (and should have one to two other players drafted in 2022 with wide receiver Jalen Nailor and H-back/tight end Connor Heyward).
Walker also becomes the highest drafted Michigan State player since Malik McDowell in 2017 (No. 35). Additionally, he is now the first ever Spartan drafted under Mel Tucker.
Walker only spent one season at Michigan State after transferring in from Wake Forest. However, he is arguably the most impactful one-year player in the history of the MSU football program. He will be forever remembered by MSU fans for his time in East Lansing — not only for his accomplishments on the field, but also for his humble demeanor and team-first attitude.
Walker’s very first touch as a Spartan went for a 75-yard touchdown run against the Northwestern Wildcats. He would go on to rush for 1,636 yards on 263 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and scored 19 total touchdowns in 12 games during the 2021 season. Overall in his career combined at Wake Forest and Michigan State, Walker finished with 480 rushing attempts for 2,794 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 36 total touchdowns (35 rushing touchdowns).
For his strong 2021 campaign, Walker received the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back. He also received the Walter Camp Player of the Year award. Walker became the first Spartan ever to win either trophy.
Additionally, Walker earned unanimous All-American honors, received All-Big Ten first-team recognition, won the Big Ten Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year award, was named the Associated Press’ Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, and received many other accolades.
Next stop: Seattle— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) April 29, 2022
Just the beginning for K9 pic.twitter.com/j34z2w2btG
As a runner, Walker brings immediate starter-level talent to the NFL. There are concerns about his ability to catch out of the back field (he certainly has the ability, just was not asked to do it often in college) and pass protect to be a true third-down back, but it would not be surprising to see Walker earn a role early on and eventually become a featured tailback in Seattle.
Walker was the second running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, behind only Iowa State’s Breece Hall (No. 36 overall to the New York Jets).
“There are a lot of great backs (in the draft),” Walker said after Michigan State’s pro day. “I would love to be taken first, obviously. But wherever I’m taken I am going to make my opportunity count and go as hard as I can.”
Walker joins a running backs room in Seattle that includes Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and others.
Good luck to Kenneth in the NFL. For more on Walker, read over his NFL Draft profile.