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A Champion’s Return

Member of 1953 Title-winning Football Team to Be Recognized Tomorrow as Honorary Captain

By Annie Krakower

Bill Walker '56 outruns Alabama's Bart Starr

Photo courtesy of John Walker; close-up, below, by University of Maryland

Terp All-American Bill Walker ‘56, right, outruns Bart Starr of Alabama for a pass in this photo taken by future Muppet creator Jim Henson '60.

Bill Walker ’56 made the most of his time as a Terp. He met his wife, the late Nancy Walker ’56, a UMD cheerleader. He racked up awards as an outfielder on the baseball team. And he helped lead Maryland to its only national football championship in 1953.

Tomorrow, he’ll relive those glory days during UMD’s home finale vs. Ohio State, when the team recognizes Walker, a Maryland Athletics Hall of Famer, as an honorary captain.

“A lot of us stay attached to the school,” Walker said of his Terp friends. “It was a wonderful experience.”Bill Walker ’56

Walker, who grew up in coal country outside of Pittsburgh, attended UMD on a full football scholarship. While he also enjoyed playing on the baseball team—his father, Joseph “Speed” Walker, played a couple of games for the St. Louis Cardinals—football was his favorite, keeping him “busier.”

“The University of Maryland was a new experience,” he said. “No one in the family ever went to college.”

The versatile All-American end, listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds in 1953, earned three All-ACC nods while bouncing between offense, defense and punting. He was the only sophomore to be named the Associated Press’ “Lineman of the Week” during the championship season for his impressive play vs. Alabama, scoring two touchdowns in a 21–0 win, and he was the Terps’ leading receiver the following year. The USA Today College Football Encyclopedia named him one of Maryland’s greatest two-way players since 1953.

That’s on top of Walker’s accomplishments on the baseball diamond, for which he earned another All-ACC honor and the Bosey Berger Award as the team’s most outstanding senior.

“We had great teams,” Walker said. “Coach Jim Tatum was one of the most successful there ever was.”

Walker was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the eighth round of the 1955 NFL draft, but he instead signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League. He played there from 1956–58, winning the Grey Cup championship his first season before a knee injury ended his career. He went on to work for General Motors, then became a car dealer in Doylestown, Pa. After Nancy won $2,000 in a crossword contest early in their marriage, “that’s kinda when things took off for them,” said their son, John. They had two other sons, Richard and Bill, and two grandsons.

Walker is looking forward to his College Park return. John, who will drive down with him from West Chester, Pa., for tomorrow’s game, remembers cheering on the Terps with his parents in the early 2000s and seeing the nostalgia rush over them as the Mighty Sound of Maryland played.

“You could watch both transport back to the 1950s,” John Walker said. “I think that’s what we’re gonna see on Saturday. This weekend should really be a blast.”



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