For the past four years, 2015 Mission Secondary School grad Jesse Walker has been simmering and honing his craft as a star wide receiver with the University of Manitoba Bisons football team, and he’s now eyeing a career in the pros.
The combine invites the best university-aged draft eligible players, and allows teams to get an up-close and personal look at the prospects both on and off the field. It’s an important precursor event to the CFL draft, which occurs on May 2.
Walker posted the fastest team in the 40-yard dash, blazing through the course in 4.63 seconds. He also posted the second best time in the shuttle, which test lateral quickness and agility. He completed the course in 4.19 seconds, just .02 behind the leader.
The Mission native didn’t disappoint in jumping events either, recording the second best distance in the broad jump, which is basically a test of leaping ability from a standing position. He leapt 10 feet, 2.75 inches, just .25 of an inch off the leader. The vertical jump was also a highlight for Walker, as he reached a height of 33 inches – good for third best of all competitors. He also finished eighth in the three-cone drill.
Edmonton is a long way from Mission, and Roadrunner Field where Walker first got interested in the sport of football.
Walker did it all for the Roadrunners during his time for the team, playing both sides of the ball and suiting up for almost every position from quarterback to punter to defensive end. He said his time in the green and black was huge in his development.
“Danny [Jakobs, Mission head coach] and Kevin [Watrin, Mission coach] were the big reason why I got involved in all this and so many people at Mission pushed me to become a better player,” he said. “The way they took care of us and prepared us at Mission made us ready for the next level and it’s part of the reason why I am who I am.”
Walker, who was a total newcomer to the sport when he first joined the program in Grade 8, helped lead the Mission junior team to a provincial title in Grade 10 and then carried the Roadrunners senior varsity team all the way to the AA provincial final in 2014. He also starred on both the basketball court and the track field during his time at the school.
He put up some incredible numbers as a Grade 12, collecting over 3,000 all-purpose yards, scoring 45 touchdowns and averaging 10.7 rushing yards per carry. For his effort, he was named the 2014 AA B.C. high school football player of the year, the senior conference most valuable player and an all-star at both the provincial and conference level.
Since arriving in Manitoba, Walker has shifted all his efforts to the wide receiver position and that focus has helped him excel. At Mission, Walker played anywhere and everywhere but with the Bisons he has been able to hone on improvement as a receiver.
“I want the ball in my hands and to make things happen and I’ve got the chance to do that here,” he said of his time in Manitoba. “High school is more basics and getting that down, now I’m expected to be more professional, be accountable and reliable. Having good body language and attitude is important, these pro teams don’t want negative people. But at Manitoba I’ve really grown as a player and person.”
Walker exploded onto the Canada West scene with the Bisons as a rookie, collecting 511 yards receiving and four touchdowns in the air, to go with 117 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground. He went on to put up 492 yards receiving and two touchdowns in 2016, 318 yards receiving and one touchdown in 2017 and this past fall grabbed 139 yards in the air with one major.
What a grab by Jesse Walker, up against the sideline! @MBBisons on top of @UABearsFootball 15-7 as we set up for the second half. An exciting Week 3 matchup at IGF today.#gobisons pic.twitter.com/uGE0mI1mka
— U of Manitoba Bisons (@umbisons) September 15, 2018
He recently signed with Elevation Sports Agency to help him take the next step into the pros. Although he does have one year of eligibility remaining at the college level, Walker said he wants to see what opportunities arise this spring and summer. He is CFL Draft eligible for this year’s draft in May, and said he would be open to any professional football opportunities, including obviously the NFL, but also new leagues such as the AAF and the XFL.
“I hope to get drafted,” he said. “This game has been my love and I will never give up. I’ve put so much into it and I want to see if I can make a positive difference for one of these pro teams.”
Walker said he’ll decide later this year if he returns to Manitoba for his final year of university, or if he joins a professional team.