Few transfers made as big of a splash in the college football landscape this year as North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker.
After missing the first four games of the 2023 season due to eligibility issues, Walker was eventually given the go-ahead to debut for the Tar Heels after breaking out for Kent State in 2022. In just 8 games, he ended up with 41 receptions for 699 yards and 7 touchdowns. He quickly established himself as the top target for highly-touted quarterback Drake Maye, and he now has his sights set on the NFL.
Windy City Gridiron recently spoke with Walker about his transfer to UNC, his approach as a route runner, getting the chance to perform at the Senior Bowl, and more.
JI: Walk me through when you heard that you became eligible to transfer. How did you find that out, and what were your thoughts once it happened?
DW: I found out — you probably saw the video — it was the exact moment I found out. I found out when everybody else found out. It was good to feel as a relief, [that] it was finally over with, and I could focus on football and get down to what I need to do to be able to go to the next level. I missed four games, so I gotta get back in shape, do this, do that to get to a place to be able to go in and do I had to do on that Saturday. Within that next five minutes [after I found out], I went downstairs and started watching film, going over plays. I knew it was time to get out of business. On the inside, it was a lot of emotion, but I didn’t show too much emotion.
JI: You were at Kent State previously and had that breakout 2022 season. How did your time there prepare you for North Carolina?
DW: Kent did a real good job, especially on the offensive side of ball. My receivers coach and head coach, who was also calling my plays, their development for receivers was very, very good. I learned a lot of things from our receivers coach, Coach [Matthew] Middleton. He was very hands-on, [and helped with] releasing at the top of the route; they were big on that. They were there every day. finessing those aspects. I would say I developed well — you can see from the Kent tape, I did really well — and I just used it when I got to UNC. I used the same things I learned when I got over to UNC.
JI: Walk me through your thought process off the line of scrimmage. What are the things you’re looking at pre-snap and then in that second or two after the snap?
DW: So, always pre-snap first, the first person I always look at is the safety. Most of the time, he’s going to tell me what they’re in or what they’re trying to do. Plus, he’s communicating to his [cornerbacks], so maybe something he said, I’ve heard before. I can realize what they did and stuff like that. Then, I look at the corners, see what he’s about to do and see how he’s lined up. I watch a lot of tape, so where he’s lined up is telling me maybe what he’s gonna do. Those are some of the things I look at, and I also look at the quarterback, so I know if he’s giving me an alternate signal, things like that.
JI: You have the Senior Bowl coming up. What does that invitation mean to you, and what are you looking forward to most when you get down there?
DW: It means a lot. I’ve watched the Senior Bowl every year, So this is big to be a part of that. Especially seeing some of my favorite players who participated in it and being able to be a part of it, I’m blessed and excited to be among some of the best prospects, and [I’m] blessed to be in that game.
JI: From someone who’s caught passes from him, what makes Drake Maye worthy of the top pick in the draft?
DW: Really, [it comes down to] his skill set. Everybody knows his skill set: great arm, very smart, things like that. But really, it’s how he interacts with his teammates, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. He wants what’s best for the offense — it ain’t just what he wants — so it means he’s taking time out, asking his receivers, “how do you want this, how you want that?” to make sure we’re comfortable with him, and vice versa. I think that’s what makes him worthy of that pick.
JI: How do you like to spend your free time outside of football?
DW: Me, I don’t get into much. I’ve been playing football since I was 6 years old, so that’s all I’ve known. Outside of football, I like video games, that’s probably really it; I don’t go out much. I got friends, but I don’t go out, interact, do all that stuff. I like to stay in the house and play the game, watch TV, and watch movies, really.
JI: What kind of games do you play?
DW: I’ve been a Fortnite guy for about the past year. I was real heavy into Madden like two, three years ago. I just got to see football all day every day, so I kind of stay away from it a little bit, so really just [Call of Duty] and Fortnite.
JI: Did you try out the OG map on Fortnite?
DW: I didn’t really try the OG map. I was on COD, but I played it like one time. I kinda thought it was overhyped. I thought it was the OG OG map [from] 2018, but it was a map that was literally on there like a year ago.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
DW: You’d be getting the ultimate competitor; [I don’t] shy from competing at all. I want to be one of the best players for that organization, not just on the field, but off the field. You don’t have to worry about those kinds of [off-the-field] things, and overall, [I’m] a great dude, a genuine guy.