Walt Aikens, 2014 NFL Draft Prospect
194 tackles, 7 INTs, 15 passes defensed (four years; Illinois/Liberty)
All-Big Ten Freshman selection (2010 at Illinois)
Three-time Big South All-Conference selection
Slated as a top 15 cornerback in the 2014 NFL Draft, Liberty defensive back Walt Aikens is projected to be off the board around the fourth or fifth round in May. As a three-year starter at Liberty following a transfer from Illinois, the 22-year old made 162 tackles and picked off seven career passes while playing as a boundary cornerback during his three years at LU.
Though he’s coming out of a small school, Aikens caught the attention of scouts during the week of the Senior Bowl, and put up a great showing at Liberty’s Pro Day in early March.
Aikens possesses and NFL–ready body and is big and athletic enough to keep up with most wideouts in the league right now. While he originally was expected to be taken off the board around the fourth/fifth rounds (as we stated above), his Senior Bowl/Pro Day workouts may end up propelling him as high as the third round.
Aikens took time out of his schedule this past weekend to speak to us about his college playing days and how the pre-draft process has helped him:
All-Out Blitz: You ended up transferring out of Illinois after a season. What went behind that decision to make the transfer?
Walt Aikens: I got into some trouble at Illinois. Coach wanted me to stay. He even wanted me to enroll at a junior college for a year and come back, but I thought it’d be best if I didn’t. I wanted something a little more secure, so I decided to go to Liberty instead so I made the transition.
AOB: When you left Illinois, what was it that helped you make the decision to choose Liberty as your next school?
Aikens: It was either Liberty or Tennessee, and I knew at Tennessee I would have to sit out a year. So I decided to go with Liberty.
AOB: Coming out of a small school such as Liberty, what do you think is one of your biggest challenges heading into the draft?
Aikens: Just the recognition that some of the guys from the big schools get, that’s it. But I feel like I’ve done a good job at getting myself out there and marketing myself, so I feel like pretty much everyone has heard my name before.
AOB: Adding on to that, what do you believe are some of your biggest strengths and weaknesses in your game?
Aikens: Experience. My size and speed, and my physicality too. I go at receivers, I don’t let them just hit me. I attack them and am very aggressive. The fact that I can move quickly and cover big guys is definitely a strength. Some weaknesses, a lot of big corners tend to stand up a lot. So just staying low is something I’ve been working on.
AOB: If you could choose an NFL player to compare yourself to, who would you choose?
Aikens: I would say Richard Sherman. We both have a similar game where we both corners and are very athletic. We both talk trash, that’s part of our game. A lot of people think that I talk trash to get on the offensive player’s nerves, but that’s always been a part of my game. It’s more of a way of boosting myself up rather than anyone else.
AOB: As far as the pre-draft process goes, what has that been like for you so far, how do you think it’s helped you?
Aikens: It has really helped me. I got a lot of coaches coming in, setting up a lot of meetings and private workouts. It’s all about marketing myself right now and showing that I deserve to be on their team. I’ve had three private workouts already, I got two more and I’ve got a lot of visits set up with teams. My Pro Day was the fourth.
AOB: When you’re marketing yourself to teams, what’s the No. 1 thing that you’re telling them to sell yourself?
Aikens: That I’m a baller. I’ve never backed down from any challenge. Every time I step on to the field the person across from me knows what they’ll have to battle, and that it’s gonna be a long day.
AOB: Thank you for your time, Walt.