As soon as Virginia offered a scholarship in late June to Bethel High's Rijo Walker, the Cavaliers shot to the top of his list of desired college destinations. It was the offer he'd been waiting for all along.
He made it official Wednesday by committing to U.Va., turning down scholarship offers from East Carolina, South Carolina, Wake Forest, West Virginia, North Carolina State and Northwestern in the process. Walker, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback, will be able to sign a letter of intent with U.Va. on Feb. 3, the first day recruits can sign.
"It's a big relief," Walker said. "I can concentrate on the season (at Bethel) and my schoolwork. I just didn't see any sense in dragging it out and maybe having another (cornerback) commit (to U.Va.) or something."
Walker said U.Va.'s assistant coaches told him they planned to sign three cornerbacks in the 2010 class. He was recruited by U.Va. assistant coaches Latrell Scott and Anthony Poindexter. Walker is U.Va.'s 10th commitment for its '10 class, which includes just three players from the state of Virginia thus far. Right now, he's U.Va.'s only '10 commitment from the Peninsula District.
"I just liked the situation there," Walker said of U.Va. "I've always liked the school, and the coaches have always been real upfront with me. I just figured with those (factors), I didn't need to wait any longer."
In his last two seasons for Bethel, Walker logged a total of 15 interceptions, including 11 in his sophomore season. He has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He's not yet sure what he wants to major in at U.Va., but he may explore a major involving one of the sciences.
He carries a grade-point average near 3.8.
"Everybody asks what it is about him that everybody seems to like," Bethel coach Jeff Nelson said. "There's a lot of little things that make him who he is. He's just a good ol' boy. It's one of those things you can't really explain. He does everything you ask him to do. He's a leader. He leads in the weight room.
"He's going to be an asset for U.Va. He's a guy you can trust. He's going to do well in the classroom. There's nothing really bad you can say about him. He's a quiet leader."
Just five months ago, Walker didn't have a single offer. In March, N.C. State became the first school to offer, and interest in him picked up soon after.
He attended a Nike camp in April in Charlottesville and also went to recruiting camps this summer at U.Va., Duke and South Carolina.
He said he didn't camp at Virginia Tech.
This fall, Walker likely will be on the field for nearly every minute of Bethel's games.
Nelson said he plans to have Walker stay at cornerback on defense for the most part, but there may be times Walker also plays a little at one of the safety positions. Walker also will return punts and kicks.
Late last season, Nelson said he used Walker some at slot wide receiver. Walker will play some at receiver this season, too.
"Just learning the (Bethel) offense is a take in itself, so now I can focus on that with this decision out of the way," Walker said.
"I've been blessed to have so many schools take an interest in me. I know I'm really fortunate to be able to make this choice."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun