Every time senior Bryan Walters touches the football, he breaks a record, or so it seems.
The Bothell, Wash., native holds every school kickoff and punt return record. Walters was one of the few bright spots for Cornell last week during a 34-14 defeat to Brown, as he eclipsed Chad Levitt ’96 for a school record 5,233 career all-purpose yards and moved into second place all-time in Ivy League history behind the 6,138 yard mark set by Harvard’s Clifton Dawson set in 2006. Earlier this year Walters surpassed legendary running back Ed Marinaro ’72 for all-purpose yards.
“Obviously, it’s an honor to be mentioned with all of the big names, who played in the Ivy League. I’ve been lucky to be put in situations to get the yards. It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ed Marinaro.
“The team has just done a good job throughout the years blocking and giving me opportunities to return punts without having to call a fair catch,” Walters said. “I just trust my teammates that they’re going to make blocks, and they’ve done a great job. It helps a lot when you’re back there and you don’t have to worry about getting hit.”
Walters’ performance early in his Cornell career was perhaps a harbinger of things to come. In his final freshman contest, the 2008 All-Ivy honorable mention reeled off a game-winning 88-yard kickoff return in the final nine minutes of regulation to stake the Red to a 28-27 victory. In the same game, Walters set a school record for punt return yardage that he broke the following year.
“One thing I’ll always remember is taking back a kickoff against Penn during my freshman year,” Walters said. “That will always stick with me. It gave us the lead in the fourth quarter and it was my first career touchdown. It kind of set the tone for the next season.”
The Red’s leading receiver ranks second in the Ancient Eight, averaging 92.5 yards per game, and first in the league with 1,154 all-purpose yards in six games. While most of the success he has at the wide receiver position can be attributed to hard work, speed and precise route running, there is an unmistakable chemistry between him and senior quarterback Ben Ganter.
“He does a lot of great things,” said Ganter, his roommate for the last three years. “He runs really good routes. Another thing is as a quarterback it’s nice to have a guy who you can throw the ball up to in traffic and not worry whether he is going to come down with it.”
Walters must accumulate 906 more all-purpose yards in order to become the Ivy League career leader. He must average 181 yards in each of the remaining five contests. The good news is he currently leads the Ivy League with an average of 192.3 all-purpose yards per game.
“It’s a big momentum boost,” Ganter said. “Football is a game of momentum, and when we get a big kickoff or punt return that just helps the offense out the rest of the way.”
As the Red attempts to snap a four-game losing skid this Saturday in Princeton, N.J., Cornell fans can count on Walters to break another record by accumulating a mere 13 yards to eclipse the Ivy League career punt return record of 902 yards set by Penn’s Mark Fabish 13 years ago.