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May 5, 2010LAWRENCEVILLE - Although it's impossible to come up with an exact number, you can bet that not many football recruits from the state of Georgia grew up calling ice hockey their first true love.
Union Grove defensive back Avery Walls can.
Making Walls' story even more unusual is that the 5-101/2, 184-pounder didn't grow up north of the Mason Dixon line, but in Florida where he took up the sport and played regularly at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
He wasn't a novice, either. Walls said he played hockey for probably 10 years, lining up as a forward before turning his attention fulltime to football
Although he occasionally dons the skates for workouts at Peachtree City nearby his McDonough home, Walls knows where his future lies, as do the 26 schools which have offered a scholarship.
"Yeah, I used to play hockey," Walls said during a break at last weekend's Football University Camp in Lawrenceville. "It's fast-pace, you get to hit people. Some people might think that hockey's not really that hard, but it's a lot of work, definitely."
It's also good exercise.
When it comes to building up your lower body, Walls said there's nothing better than strapping on a pair of skates for some rough-and-tumble action on the ice.
"You really learn how to use and work your thighs," said Walls. "It's a pretty good workout."
But make no mistake, when it comes to contact, football is where it's at.
Walls wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, he prefers it.
"I love contact, I love hitting people," said Walls, who doubles as a cornerback and safety for Union Grove. "I really love playing safety because it allows me to play the whole field. I can drop back 10-15 yards which lets met come up and make tackles. I love that."
Last weekend's camp in Lawrenceville gave Wells the opportunity to compare himself against some of the state's top high school talent.
"I think I did very well. There was a lot of competition," he said. "There were a lot of unique players here, so it was definitely good to have them here to try and help me get better."
Walls laughed that he's pretty much asked to do it all defensively in Union Grove's 3-5-5 scheme.
"I'm the only safety so I get to roam all over the field," he said. "I have to cover tight ends, running backs, slot receivers, you name it. My team really depends on me to help the defense, be it tackle the ball carrier or make interceptions."
Walls' list of schools reads like a 'Who's, Who.'
From the SEC, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee have all made offers. Oklahoma, UCLA, Michigan and California have also offered.
Walls isn't sure whether state schools Georgia and Georgia Tech will extend offers of their own.
"I've been to Georgia five times but Coach (Scott) Lakatos just tells me to be patient. He also wants me to come to camp (this summer)," he said. "With the new staff, I'm sure they're still doing evaluations, and being the instate school, I know there's a lot of guys who would love to go to Georgia, so maybe they're to get that settled down before deciding what players they want."
Lakatos and Walls actually know each other quite well.
It was Lakatos who offered Walls a scholarship to Connecticut before taking the Georgia job last January.
"He probably has to sell the other coaches," Walls said. "All I can do is keep working hard and show them how good I am."
Walls said he hopes the Bulldogs come through.
"It would mean a lot to get an offer from the instate school," Walls said. 'Obviously, my family wouldn't have to come far to see my play. I actually got to sit in on a meeting with Coach Lakatos one time and he's a great defensive backs coach. I think I could learn a lot from him."
Although he hasn't narrowed his choices, Walls said he plans on making a final decision sooner than later.
He'll graduate in December and will enroll early at whatever school he decides to attend.
"I'll narrow it down after the summer," said Walls, who has a 3.3 grade point average. "I'll probably commit before the season is over."