Walker embraces challenge of playing on the road

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Landon WalkerLandon Walker
Gr. Offensive Tackle
#72 6-6, 305
North Wilkesboro, NC

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loves playing in Death Valley, but he also embraces the chance to go on the road trip and play in front of a hostile crowd.

He gets his first chance of the 2011 season this weekend when Clemson travels to Blacksburg, Va., to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies, a stiff test for a Tiger squad that has already knocked off two Top 25 teams in Auburn and Florida St. the past two weeks.

This week, it’s the defending ACC Champions, an 11th-ranked Hokie team that promises to be Clemson’s biggest challenge to date.

Walker says it’s just another chance for this team to reach its goals.

“I was reading something by John Madden the other day and the quote was, ‘The road to the easy street goes through the sewer.’ It kind of reminds me of our schedule,” Walker said Tuesday. “It’s just one tough game after another and one champion after another. Nothing is given. You can’t go to the ACC Championship by just looking pretty and coming off of the bus with a bunch of athletes. Obviously, we have a bunch of athletes, but we have to go through this schedule to get where we want to get and that’s the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl. We have to beat Virginia Tech.”

Lane Stadium in Blacksburg is known for being loud and raucous, and night games there just seem to have more energy than the day games. Clemson is just 3-7 on the road the last two seasons, so Walker knows the energy and momentum will definitely be wearing Hokie colors early, saying, “As a veteran, you learn to do that over the years. It’s going to be huge for us to take that energy and use it to help us instead of letting it beat you.”

At the beginning of the season, most Clemson fans would have been ecstatic with a 2-1 record through the current three-game stretch of Auburn, Florida St. and Virginia Tech, but Walker says that dynamic has now changed after a 2-0 start to the stretch.

“Some people say ‘If they beat Florida State, they don’t have to beat Virginia Tech to stay in the ACC division title race.’ We do,” Walker said. “In my mind and in the minds of these guys, we do. We don’t accept losing. It’s a different mentality around here than in the past. Going to Virginia Tech is a tough atmosphere, but it would be tremendous for this team to go get a win in Blacksburg, to show that it’s a different year and a different team and different mentality. I think that’s what we are going to be able to do. It starts today having a good practice and tomorrow having a good practice. It’s a different game when you go on the road. If we can handle that like we’ve handled home games, it will be huge.”

Walker says that Clemson’s record on the road last season – just 1-4 with the lone win at Wake Forest – has no bearing on the 2011 team.

“It’s a different team and a different year,” he said. “We weren’t successful last year, but that was then. This team- we don’t accept losing. When we play a game, we expect to win. When we go on the road to Virginia Tech this weekend to play a team on the other side of the conference, we expect to win. We don’t expect the fans to beat us. We don’t expect the crowd noise to affect the way we do things. We expect us to be prepared to handle those things. That’s a mature team. A championship team.

“A championship team can take the good things they do at home and go on the road to Virginia Tech and win. You have to be able to do that wherever you go every week. If you can’t win on the road at Virginia Tech, in my mind you don’t deserve to be there. If you can’t win games on the road, what are you going to do in the championship, because it’s not at home? You have to be able to win on the road and somewhere else. You have to be successful other places when the crowd doesn’t have your back.”

There will be a large contingent of Clemson fans who will make the trek to Blacksburg to cheer on the Tigers, but Walker says he knows the majority of the voices will be against his team.

And he doesn’t care.

“I love going on the road. It’s always been one of my favorite things,” he said. “I love playing here in Death Valley, but to go on the road is always one of my favorite parts of playing college football. I love being called ‘fat’. We take it and we laugh about it, but it makes me play that much harder. It’s going to be fun as a team. To go on the road and win at VT will make the plane ride back fun. We have to prepare hard this week. They are the next best team and we have to prepare.”

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