By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
Linebackers have a reputation for being an intense group. Think Chicago Bears great Mike Singletary’s wide eyes before the snap, or the old NFL Films story of former 49ers’ Jack Reynolds eating by himself in full pads at a team breakfast hours before the game.
So, laid back is not an adjective usually associated with a linebacker. But Ocean City High School senior Dan Walsh is not most linebackers. Don’t let his personality fool you, though.
Walsh may not be wound tightly, like some other linebackers, but he still is a force on the gridiron, having started all four years at Ocean City. He is among the team leaders and has stepped in to play some running back this season as well.
“He’s a beach kid. He’s as laid back as it gets,” Ocean City Coach Kevin Smith said. “He’s a fun kid to be around, someone you can talk to, and he’s well-liked by his teammates. He’s a great leader. He makes the kids feel comfortable on and off the football field. He’s the kind of kid other kids look up to.”
He added: “He plays a downhill style. He is a very technical player. He is always in the right spot. He has good fundamentals. He is a four-year starter for us, so he impressed us as a freshman. He had pretty good size, so we saw right away as a freshman that physically he could handle varsity play. Mentally, he handled it well. He almost has the personality of a baseball relief pitcher who is unfazed by anything.”
Walsh is aware that he’s more laid back than most, whether it’s on the playing field or off. The linebacker believes his personality makes him a better player and student. There should be little doubt that it has been a big reason why he has starred on the football team and the lacrosse team, where he is a standout defender.
“I have always had that calm, collected attitude toward anything. There is never a time when panicking or being too excited really helps you,” said Walsh, who said he hopes to play at the next level but has yet to pick a school. “I just think I have always been calm, and trying to stay level is the way to go. If you are focused on other things and your mind is racing, the game can get away from you.”
It’s one thing to be calm when things are going your way, but Walsh’s personality doesn’t change with circumstance. His calm demeanor rubs off on other players as well.
The Red Raiders started slowly last season, winless in their first four games. As the team stretched and prepared to play Egg Harbor Township last year, Smith saw the way Walsh was behaving, and his confidence in his team was reassured when the team topped the Eagles, 19-7.
“We might have been 0-4, but we were competitive and felt we were on the verge of doing some good things,” Smith explained. “EHT was playing some pregame music and I look over, Danny is just dancing by himself. I just laughed. I thought to myself, ‘we were going to win.’ He was loose. Most guys would be like, ‘we are 0-4 and pressing about it,’ but he is just a loose kid. There is room for all different types of personalities on the football field.”
Walsh said he is thankful he is one of those personalities. As a choice student, Walsh, a Margate resident, was able to pick Ocean City.
“It’s fun because I love this group of guys. It makes it an even better experience,” Walsh said.
He added: “I wasn’t sure where to go, then when I was able to choose, I chose Ocean City. All my teachers have been so helpful over the years from freshman year to now. Ocean City was a great decision.”
Walsh may be from outside the school’s normal sending district, but it didn’t take long for him to fit right in, including his attitude toward rival Mainland.
Walsh tweaked his right ankle in the team’s homecoming win over Middle Township on Oct. 14. The senior missed most of the second half, as the Red Raiders won for the second time in three games to improve to 2-3. However, Walsh expects to be back for a showdown against the Mustangs on Oct. 21.
“There’s no way I’m going to miss the Mainland game. I have to play,” Walsh said.
Ok, so he’s not laid back about everything.
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu
By GIUSEPPE UNGARO