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Ex-Meridian High School standout seeks out help

By Staff
IMPROVING Kenyatta Walker's level of play has improved in recent weeks after the rookie lineman went to coaches and asked for help. Photo by David Kadlubowski/Tampa Tribune
By Katherine Smith/Tampa Tribune
Dec. 21, 2001
TAMPA If Kenyatta Walker has learned anything this season, it's this: His football team is family. And just like any other family, there's going to be some level of dysfunction.
And so it was for Walker earlier this season. The Tampa Bay left tackle wasn't getting along with every member of his football family. Teammates perceived him as immature. He fell asleep in a meeting, didn't ask teammates for help and insisted on doing things on his own.
As a rookie, Walker is the baby of the offensive line family. Everyone anticipated some growing pains, and he definitely had them. But now Walker is beginning to grow up as a professional football player and as a person.
As much of an independent personality as Walker is, he's learning he can't do everything alone. On a team with numerous Pro Bowlers, Walker discovered certain players demand and deserve respect. And he realized they were also there to lend a helping hand.
He endured some bad games and ultimately learned from them.
Walker protects quarterback Brad Johnson's blind side and needs to produce at one of the line's key positions. The expectations that he would become a force began when Tampa Bay moved up seven spots in this year's draft to make him the 14th selection. The Bucs quickly moved him from the right side, where he played at the University of Florida, to the left.
He started immediately, but without the expected results. Criticism came his way.
From the moment he steps outside his front door at his home, Walker feels like every move he makes is analyzed and critiqued. Fans scream at him during games. Sometimes teammates and coaches scream at him.
Walker is working on the kind of person he wants to be off the field as well. He recently read about a program for foster children that was robbed of all its toys for Christmas. He immediately went to the Bucs' community relations staff to offer his assistance.
On Wednesday, Walker presented an $8,000 check to more than cover the cost of the stolen merchandise.
Walker gets it. It's all about family.