When Walker White was in ninth grade, he quarterbacked the Little Rock Christian Academy junior high (which includes ninth grade in Arkansas) football team to a perfect 10-0 record. But his season didn’t end there.
He was quickly promoted to the high school varsity roster, played scout team quarterback for the remainder of the season, and finished as the team’s second-leading receiver. His impact was evident, and Little Rock Christian went all the way to the Arkansas state title game.
It was clear then that LRCA head coach Eric Cohu had a special talent on his hands. That has held true through White’s last three years as a do-it-all signal caller for the eighth-ranked team in Arkansas. White possesses all the traits, both tangible and intangible, a coach wants in a quarterback: commitment, seemingly natural leadership, a strong arm, exceptional athleticism, a high football IQ.
It has not taken those at the highest level of college football long to notice, and White committed to head coach Hugh Freeze and Auburn on Feb. 3, 2023.
“Walker has the metrics that everybody wants,” Cohu recently told Sports Spectrum. “He’s 6-[foot]-4, 220 [pounds]. He’s strong and fast, and throws the ball with great velocity. He’s got a quick release. But he is also very serious about his faith walk. He knows he’s a strong witness for God and that’s something that I’ve seen him grow in. That’s been very impressive.”
As White progresses through his senior season, his name is garnering attention well beyond the borders of Arkansas. He’s regarded as one of the nation’s best high school quarterbacks, a four-star recruit who is ranked eighth in the Class of 2024 by 247Sports. At the center of his passion for football is his faith, a foundation Cohu has seen form over the course of White’s prep career, even as the spotlight — and perceived pressure — upon him has grown.
“I guess from an outside point of view, there is a lot of pressure on me,” White recently told Sports Spectrum. “But I’ve never really felt that. For me, playing football is my calling. It’s what I’m supposed to do for the Lord. I’ve found football to be a place of peace, where I understand that’s where I’m supposed to be.”
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Poise is what has separated White as a leader for LRCA over the course of his three years as a starting quarterback, especially as many of the nation’s best college programs began showing up to watch him play. It has also been one of the most noticeable areas of growth when White reflects on who he was early on.
“I have my own standards of how I want to play, and for me that’s perfection on the field,” White said. “But I’ve also had to come to terms with that’s not always going to happen, and I have to move on. I’ve really learned to incorporate the Lord into my play.
“Early on in my high school career, I had a lot of anger issues as a quarterback. Anytime I’d mess up, I’d act as if my identity had failed. Kirk Cousins had said once, ‘Thank God my identity is not in football, because if it was, I’d be crushed every day.’ You fail at something every day, and I thought that was an interesting way to look at it. When I made the Lord my identity, that was when I knew my identity would never fail.”
Through nine games this season, White is completing 63% of his passes for 2,085 yards, not to mention his 25 passing touchdowns against just six interceptions. The 2018 season was the first and only time in program history that Little Rock Christian has captured a state title, but with White and a group of experienced senior receivers playing in their final high school season, LRCA is amongst the leading contenders to win it all this year, currently holding an 8-2 record.
“There are high expectations for this group,” Cohu said. “It can be stressful at times, but they’ve handled it well. Overall, this group has had a lot of success through their football careers, because, again, they are talented, but they also have a strong camaraderie and team approach that is sadly missing in a lot of today’s sports world.”
“When I made the Lord my identity, that was when I knew my identity would never fail.” — Walker White
To understand just how important faith is to White, it’s important to realize the environment in which he made his mark on the gridiron. The name “Little Rock Christian Academy” certainly lends itself to a faith-centered culture, but it is more than that, especially within Cohu’s program.
“I want to create an environment that fosters faith,” Cohu said of the football program. “I think football is a good sport for that. Sometimes in the Christian world, we lose sight of what actually fosters faith. Faith grows in times when you have to lean and trust in God; it grows through adversity. Football is a very adverse sport due to the physical nature of it, the heat element here in the South, getting along with a large group of players.”
Cohu added that there are “four cornerstones” of the Little Rock Christian football program, all pointing toward being better disciples of Christ: honesty, hard work, unity, sacrifice for one another.
Playing and growing in that environment throughout his high school career has left a lasting impression, White said. It’s an impact that will follow him to Auburn, where he plans to enroll for the spring semester and begin working out with the team as an early enrollee.
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“It’s very healthy to come into practice every day and hear a word straight from the Bible and understand that my coach teaches and coaches based on the values and standard of the Bible,” White said. “I know that anytime I hear him speak, it’s going to be truth.”
White is set to join a program of similar Christ-centered leadership — Freeze and several of his assistant coaches are strong believers. Faith played a role in White’s recruiting journey too, especially as interest poured into Little Rock from national-championship-caliber programs around the country. Clemson, Auburn and Baylor ended up being the three White settled on, and in the midst of navigating the decision-making process, the talented quarterback began praying to the Lord for guidance.
“Early on in my recruiting, I was always just looking at the tangibles of each program — what is the offense, what do they provide for me, where are they located — all these variables that 100% matter, but it was all worldly stuff,” White recalled. “It was a lot to look at. But I started praying about it and asking the Lord that He would lead me to the place that was best for me.
“That’s when it all started falling into order and I understood what I was looking for. At the end of my recruitment, I felt a huge tug and pull — I believe it was from the Lord — towards Auburn. I wanted to be obedient to that, and that’s why I think I’ve made the decision.”
“I want to create an environment that fosters faith. I think football is a good sport for that. Sometimes in the Christian world, we lose sight of what actually fosters faith. Faith grows in times when you have to lean and trust in God; it grows through adversity.” — Eric Cohu, White’s high school coach
It was 1:30 a.m. in the hours following his visit to Clemson, a well-known ACC power under the direction of Dabo Swinney, and White was wrestling with his future. He felt drawn to Auburn, but had thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Clemson. He got along well with the coaching staff and several of the recruits on campus that day. A conversation with his older brother, Zac, an Arkansas baseball alum, helped him finally reach a decision.
“Everything looked great on the outside, but my heart was still pulling towards Auburn,” White said. “I left the hotel room and was down in the hotel lobby just writing down my thoughts. That’s when my brother called me at 1:30 and he was like, ‘Dude, what is your heart telling you?’ I was like, ‘I want to go to Auburn.’ So he said, ‘That’s where you’re supposed to be. Follow it.’”
White has done just that. He is looking forward to the opportunities and journey ahead at the next level. But before he ventures into college and takes on the SEC, he is focused on making the most of the time he has left with Little Rock Christian.
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From Sunday throwing sessions with his wide receivers starting during his sophomore year, to spectacular performances under the lights on Friday nights, White has separated himself. He has the dual-threat abilities necessary for a quarterback to have success in college, Cohu said. At the same time, he has grown into a strong leader and a player his teammates enjoy being around. And central to his high character is a trust in the Lord.
“He’s the kind of guy you want in the locker room,” Cohu said. “He’s really grown in his faith journey and that’s an extremely important part of who Walker White is. That’s what is most exciting to me.”
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