There aren’t many football players that can relate with Texas Tech signee J.J. Lollar, who is blind in his right eye.
Former Tech standout Sammy Walker, though, understands better than most.
Walker, a cornerback who lettered two seasons at Texas Tech in 1989 and 1990, was legally blind in his right eye. He was the fastest player on the team and among the fastest in the Southwest Conference.
He had four interceptions in his first season and was second in the SWC with 12 pass breakups. He was all-Southwest Conference in the two seasons he played, and he left early for the NFL draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Walker in the fourth round of the 1991 draft, and he went on to play three seasons in the NFL — two for the Steelers and one for the Green Bay Packers.
“Teams would try to take advantage of it,” Walker said of his blindness. “If a receiver knew it, they would always come in for a block on that side. Football is not a nice sport.”
Lollar, whose blindness was caused by inflammation in the eye, had corrective surgery last week and expects his vision to return in the coming weeks. He will miss the 2012 season and enroll at Tech in January.
“Once I have vision back (my doctor) wants me to wait two or three months before I start working out,” Lollar said, “and then I’ll be ready.”
Walker, 43, didn’t have corrective surgery until his second year in the NFL.
He suffered the eye injury in high school when he was helping out his grandmother to knock down a shed in her yard. He hit a piece of wood and it bounced up and hit him in the eye.
“I didn’t realize it at first, but my eye swelled up really big like Rocky’s,” said Walker, referencing Sylvester Stallone’s famous boxing character.
Walker wore a tinted visor on his helmet for protection, and it also helped prevent opposing players from determining what he was looking at.
One positive side effect of his blindness was harder hitting.
Because he had poor depth perception, Walker ran through players as he tackled them — often hitting them harder than necessary.
“Half of the time I didn’t know I was hitting them that hard,” he said. “I had to run through them because I really didn’t know if I was two steps away or one step away because of the depth perception.”
Walker said former Tech wide receiver Rodney Blackshear went out of his way to help. Blackshear would burn Walker up the field on his blind side again and again until he got the hang of it.
Walker also kept detailed mental notes about where and when he would get blindsided on particular plays so that he would know what to be ready for.
Blackshear and Walker coached together last year on the Amarillo Venom of the Lone Star Football League.
Last month Walker took a job as an assistant coach for the Green Bay Chill of the Lingerie Football League, a seven-on-seven women’s league.
His biggest coaching influences are former Tech coach Spike Dykes and defensive coordinator Carlos Mainord.
“One thing I appreciate coaching women is they do listen to you,” Walker said. “They are a blank slate. Most of them have never really played football before. They want to absorb everything because they think everything you say is gold.”
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