Head Coach’s brother hired as Defensive Coordinator
By KEITH SPARKS
If you find yourself yelling for Coach Walker at any point during football season, you may see two heads turn.
On April 3, Kent Walker, younger brother of Liberty Hill’s new Head Coach and Athletic Director Jeff Walker, began his tenure as the Panthers’ Defensive Coordinator.
“I always tell everybody I’m the better Coach Walker,” Kent said with a laugh.
Following just one season as the Head Coach and Athletic Director at Conference 3A Rogers High School, Kent Walker got word from his brother that he had been offered the position of Head Coach and Athletic Director at Liberty Hill.
“Him and I, we’re really close,” Kent said. “Jeff and I are very close. We talk at least a couple times a week. I was excited. I always knew there was a possibility. I told him if he needed me, I’d be more than willing to come coach with him, and that opportunity became available.”
Kent Walker, who holds an Exercise Sports Science degree from Texas State University, got his first coaching job as an offensive assistant with the Round Rock Dragons, which he held from 2004 to 2007. From Round Rock, Kent transferred to Rogers to coach with his brother as both an offensive and defensive assistant from 2007 to 2008.
After only a year at Rogers, Kent moved back to Round Rock, where he started as an offensive assistant in 2009 before taking over the secondary for the defense, which he did until 2016. Last year, Kent once again moved back to Rogers to accept the position of Head Coach and Athletic Director, the same position that his brother held for six seasons prior to returning to Liberty Hill. Kent held the position for just one season before accepting a position with Liberty Hill last week.
Although the decision to take the job at Liberty Hill was made quickly, Kent said it wasn’t an easy one. The prospect of coaching at a school that’s been as successful as Liberty Hill, coupled with the opportunity to coach alongside his brother once again, was too good to pass up.
“It’s tough to leave your first head coaching job and Athletic Director position,” Kent said, “but just the excitement of coming to Liberty Hill, and him and I being able to coach together again is just…it’s exciting. I think it’s a good family decision.”
Kent’s immediate family includes his wife, Sarah, who currently teaches for Rogers ISD, and an eight-year-old son, Eli, a second-grader at Rogers Elementary. For the time being, Kent is making the hour-long commute from Rogers to Liberty Hill every morning while he and his wife work on selling their current home, and his son finishes the school year.
“You go back and forth, because it’s all about the kids,” Kent said about his decision to leave Rogers. “The kids in Rogers, you know, they’ll be fine. They’re going to be fine, but it’s hard to leave kids. It’s hard. You invest in them, and then they, in turn, give everything they have to you, and then you leave them. That’s tough. That was the hardest part about leaving Rogers.”
After the 2017 spring semester comes to a close, Sarah Walker will head to Leander Glenn High School, where she’ll work as a Counselor, and they’ll decide on which school their son, Eli, will attend, depending on where they find a home.
Although excited to coach with his brother once again, Kent understands that there will be times when the two don’t agree. Given their prior experience on the sidelines together, both understand how to handle those disagreements properly.
“It’s good. I mean, you know, in the coaching profession, coaches can…it’s a different environment,” Kent said. “When you have two brothers, it’s a lot of fun, but there will definitely be times when I’m sure we’ll butt heads and what-not, but at the end of the day we know what we’re fighting for and what’s best for the kids.”
From a talent perspective, it will be tough for both Coach Walkers to assess what they have on the roster, especially when the offseason focus lies in the weight room, as it will for the majority of the time between now and the fall. They will, however, have a few weeks to evaluate their roster before the end of the school year when the players take the field, likely within the next week or so.
“It’s difficult,” Kent said about evaluating his defensive talent during the offseason. “We’ll be outside, I guess, in the next week or so, so I’ll get to evaluate it a little bit more out there, but right now I’m excited. I think we have the kids here to be very successful, and you know Liberty Hill has been very successful, so I think we can continue with that and hopefully build on it.”
While the offense will remain virtually the exact same as Panther fans are used to seeing, the defense will see some strategic changes with Kent Walker at the helm. Walker explained, at the surface level, what changes will take place, but was careful not to take away from what former Defensive Coordinator Jimmy Duncan and former Head Coach Jerry Vance have done on that side of the ball.
“Coach Duncan’s done a great job, and you know Coach Vance was a defensive guy, and they’ve done an outstanding job,” Walker said, “but we are going to change defenses. We’re not going to run the Split, which they’ve been running here since Coach Vance was first brought on board. We’re going to change the defense up a little bit, which should be exciting. It’s different.”
Though there will be some changes made on the defensive end, it should be a pretty straightforward transition for the players, according to Walker. The biggest change that fans may notice from the bleachers is the shift from four defensive linemen to three. The most difficult aspect for the Liberty Hill defensive players to grasp will likely be the change in reads and coverage, which they’ll have a chance to work on during seven-on-seven competition.
Strategy aside, Walker says his focus is on getting all 11 players on the defense to “get their helmets to the ball,” and that he hopes to bring “energy, passion, and enthusiasm” to the defense, much like his brother said he plans to do on the other side of the ball.
Although his full list of responsibilities has yet to be determined, Walker is under the impression that in addition to serving as the Panthers’ Defensive Coordinator, he’ll teach Health class and will also hold the title of Head Boys’ Track Coach.