Herald All-Area Football Offensive Player of the Year | Prolific Trevon Walters helped Manatee to perfect regular season

jlembo@bradenton.comDecember 25, 2013 

Given the way his season started, Trevon Walters probably would have been content with just finishing his final fall as a Manatee Hurricane in as little pain as possible.

During the season opener, Walters, a senior running back, injured his ankle in the second quarter.

It was his left ankle, the same one that kept him out of a playoff game in 2012.

Walters returned for the second half to score a touchdown -- then promptly lost the tip of his middle finger while sprinting toward the end zone.

"It just started growing back by itself," he said.

But not even a blizzard of injuries did much to curtail Walters, who finished with 1,704 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns en route to helping Manatee to its second straight undefeated regular season and the Class 8A-District 7 title.

Walters is the Bradenton Herald's All-Area Offensive Player of the Year because when it came to Manatee's offense, Walters was right in the middle of it. He averaged nearly 155 rushing yards per game, never rushed for fewer than 70 yards and rushed for at least 144 yards in six games.

And his two biggest performances came in two of Manatee's crucial games: He ripped St. Petersburg for 285 yards to help the Canes clinch the district title Oct. 18 and set a program record with 43 carries in a Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal against Vero Beach. With backup running back Johnnie Lang out with a knee injury, Walters gashed the Indians for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-28 victory.

"I knew coming into the season, the pressure was going to be on me," said Walters, voted a team captain by his teammates. "I just had goals for myself and the team. I put all that stuff aside, all the pressure and media attention aside, and just focused on getting to the state championship."

Having lost the prolific left arm of Cord Sandberg to graduation and returning all but one of its starting offensive linemen, Manatee averaged 14 more rushing plays per game in 2013 than in '12.

Enter Walters, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry and scored in eight of the 11 games he played.

Not that his season was easy. The aforementioned ankle injury wound up being a high sprain that never really went away. He sat out Manatee's game at Sarasota on Sept. 20 and spent some days in a walking boot, all the while taking it easier than usual at practice. And his performance against Vero Beach took a toll. Walters still feels some shoulder discomfort and plans on having an MRI.

"I just toughened up and played," he said. "I got used to it, and the adrenaline took over."

Despite the gaudy numbers, Walter's season ended earlier than anyone expected. Manatee lost to Fort Pierce Central in a Region 2 semifinal. Adding to the pain of that stunning defeat was what happened on Manatee's final play from scrimmage, when a balky groin kept Walters on the sideline while Lang was stopped trying to convert on fourth and 1.

"It was tough. I knew I had to let it go and get over it," Walters said. "But it was tough to get over.

"We went through a lot, but we came together and fought together," he said, referring to the Hurricanes' season. "I don't look at it as a failure because we accomplished a lot. We just came up short."

Walters' playing days are far from over. An Alabama native who grew up watching SEC football, Walters committed to Missouri prior to the season and plans on sticking to that decision come National Signing Day. He hasn't scheduled any other official visits.

It doesn't hurt that the Tigers reached the SEC championship game this season, either.

"I'm excited about what they accomplished," Walters said. "It was pretty big ... because I didn't expect them to do that."

In the meantime, Walters will be hitting the weight room and has decided to run track in the spring for the first time in order to "get a little faster" in hopes of making an immediate impact at Missouri.

"I'm going there hoping to play as a true freshman," he said.

And he'll be going there with pleasant memories of his time at Manatee, even if he had to get through an injury or two.

"The season was fun," Walters said, "just hanging with the boys."

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