By Dave Morrison
ATHENS – West Virginia high school coaching icon Dave Walker called it “a leap of faith.”
On Monday, Walker, a Pineville native, was named Concord University’s 20th head football coach.
Walker is leaving behind the dynasty he built at Martinsburg High School. The Bulldogs have won four straight Class AAA state championships, eight in the last 10 years (four straight twice) and is currently on a state-record 56-game win streak.
That’s right, his team has not lost a game since 2015.
It would seem to be more like one giant leap for Walker, inheriting a 1-10 team, but the coach said he felt the time was right.
“I think change is important, I think growth is important as a person,” Walker said. “I’ve been doing this a long time (33 total years as a coach). To be honest with you, it’s never been about me as far as the successes I’ve been a part of, it’s always been about us. For me personally, I’m at point in my life where I need to do something different.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a little stale. I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish as a high school coach. I think the challenge for me is what’s exciting and I love to be challenged. I think this is a great fit for both us. I’m just ready to expand and be better as as person and a coach.”
He’s definitely excited about the being at Concord.
“I’m honored to be part of the Concord family,” Walker said. “I’d like to thank President Boggess and the selection committee along with Athletic Director Kevin Garrett for giving me this opportunity to represent Concord University as the head football Coach.”
He has won 304 games as the head coach at East Hardy and Martinsburg.
Walker said he would immediately begin to evaluate the existing staff and players and hit the road recruiting.
Walker said changing the culture at Concord will be important at Concord as well.
He and Athletic Director Kevin Garrett have been friends since they were high school football teammates at Pineville in the early 1980s.
Walker inherits a program at Concord that was 1-10 last season.
“He’s proven what he has been able to do all these years,” Garrett said. “When he went to East Hardy he took a program (that had seven games in the previous nine years) and turned it around. I think they made seven straight playoff appearances. Then he goes to Martinsburg and in one year turns that program around and has continued that success.”
Garrett said he began talking to Walker about the Concord job a few week’s ago after coach Paul Price resigned.
“We spoke on the phone several times during the end of the season,” Garrett said; “I didn’t want to bother him too much because I knew he was on a mission to win that fourth straight state title. But we found some time and just kind of looked at the possibility of him coming down and being our head coach.”
Walker said he accepted the job on Thursday.
“I came and did the interview Wednesday, went through the whole process but Thursday I was officially offered the job and accepted it,” Walker said. “I’m just very happy to be back close to home (his mom still loves in Pineville) in southern West Virginia.”
Walker also said that recruiting West Virginia will be the “heart and soul of the program.”
“I’d like to get the best players in the state that aren’t going Division I,” Walker said. “I think that’s the best local players as well. I think our heart and soul has to come from the state and then we will be looking outside the state as well. We want to get the best players in our program regardless of where they are from.”
Does that include Martinsburg players, some whom recently went four years without losing a game?
“I would love to bring some of my guys up there with me,” Walker said. “But one thing about my kids up there, they are very talented and they are being recruited by a lot of schools.”
One of his current Concord players in James Monroe offensive lineman Brady Chinault, who was at Monday’s press conference to meet his new coach.
“I’m excited to get started and get rolling with coach Walker,” Chinault said. “Change is good and I believe he will get the culture right here at Concord.”
Walker said his success stemmed from his upbringing and it won’t be much different at Concord.
“I took the Coalfields up North, that’s what I used to tell people,” Walker said. “It’s important to never forget where you are from. I’ve never forgotten my roots. I’m proud to be from Wyoming County. I’m proud to be from Pineville, the coal mining community I grew up in. Most of my family were miners growing up. I took that mentality of hard work, toughness and tried to instill that in our kids and it worked out pretty well for me.”
Walker said he will really get things rolling after the holidays,on Jan. 2.