Q: What other teams were you talking to and what made you decide on the Raiders?
Walker: I was talking to Seattle, Giants, Philly and a couple other teams, but I felt like they had lesser interest. But as far as the Raiders, I thought I’m a great fit for what they’re trying to do. They showed me a lot of love for what I’ve been doing for the past four years, and appreciation, and that was one of the things that really drew me to the Raiders was the fact that they realized I was a 7th round pick and it hasn’t been easy pickings since I’ve gotten into the league. So it was one of those things that I’ve been able to build each year I’ve been here and been successful.
Q: You said you fit what they’re trying to do – what’s your sense of what they’re trying to do on defense right now?
Walker: Well obviously I watched a good bit of film with the guys and it’s pretty similar to what I’ve done in the past. For the most part, they like my versatility. They like the fact that I can play the nose, the three-technique or defensive end, so honestly, anything they throw at us, I think we’ll be fine and ready for it and I think I’ll be fine and ready for it.
Q: You said you have a lot of versatility; you’ve played a few different positions on the d-line. Which are you the most comfortable with?
Walker: Honestly, they’re all pretty much the same. You line up and you run that guy over in front of you. You try your best to get that guy. With that being said, I’ve been playing defensive tackle all my life, so I’m just more familiar with the speed of the game inside as opposed to the outside. Things happen a lot slower, you have to use your eyes better, but nonetheless, it’s all the same – it’s about being physical and speed as well.
Q: Was staying in Atlanta an option or had you pretty much determined that you were going to move on?
Walker: Yes, it was an option, but at the end of the day, it was a better option to see which team could I grow with, which team would I be able to reach my ceiling with? At the end of the day, I felt like Oakland was that place. Just a great bunch of guys, coaching – Coach T [Terrell Williams] and Coach JT [Jason Tarver]. I love the Falcons, don’t get me wrong, and they did a great job helping me develop, but as far as moving on in my career, I think Oakland was a better fit. So yeah, Atlanta did want me to stay, but just complications from little things kind of prevented that as well. But just the biggest room to grow I felt was Oakland out of all the teams that I could look at.
Q: In the rotation basis, how many snaps per game were you getting in Atlanta and do you think your snaps per game will really increase here and do you want it to?
Walker: I definitely want it to increase, without a doubt I do. Per game, it’s hard to say because depending on what the game plan was in Atlanta. I know for sure I played 51 percent of the snaps in Atlanta, so just a little bit over half. Obviously I would love to play more and I have a lot to prove as far as rushing the passer, which is something I know I can do and that’s something I’m willing to bring and I will bring to do the table with the Raiders.
Q: The Raiders have made it so abundantly clear that the guys they are looking for on this team are sort of maybe under the radar a little bit, that aren’t going to bring a lot of drama, that not only like to play football, but really like to study it and are into every bit of it. Does that sum you up?
Walker: Yes sir. I’ve come from Georgia Tech, a place where if there wasn’t any football, we’d be studying long and hard anyway. I brought that to the Falcons and I’ll definitely bring that to Oakland. It’s just always something I’ve done, just being a student of the game and just learning everything about your opponent or whatever the case is, getting that one-up before you even hit the field.
Q: When you came out of Georgia Tech as a 7th round pick, did you come into the league saying I belong in the NFL, I’m going to make a long career of it, or were you just kind of taking it game by game?
Walker: I definitely felt like I belonged in NFL and that would have been regardless of the round I was picked in, whether it was the 7th or the 1st, that’s just me as a person. I always feel like I have to prove something regardless if everybody supports me or if everybody is against me. Being a 7th round pick, I put more pressure on me to produce in the position I was in just because I didn’t have that time that a higher draft pick would have as far as errors were concerned. So if I made mistakes, I would be out of there, so that definitely pushed me to realize my potential a lot faster. But as of now, I realize that it’s about me as a player and I know what I’m capable of. I always strive to be the best, so that’s definitely what I’m trying to get out of life and playing football.
Q: Coach Allen has said that in terms of scheme he kind of deflects the question and says look, ‘let’s see what players we’ve got first and then we’ll build the scheme to fit the players we’ve got.’ If they were to say, ‘Vance, we’re going 3-4 and we think you’re our nose,’ are you okay with that?
Walker: I’m perfectly fine with that. I would love it. As long as I get to play football, you won’t hear one complaint out of me.
Q: When you played against the Raiders last year, what were your impressions of their scheme and their talents, just overall what they brought on the field?
Walker: I only watched the defense. Whenever we’re playing a game, I always watch the other team’s defense so I really didn’t pay too much attention to the offense. Obviously I was playing against the offense, but for the most part, they had speed and tenacity. They were getting after quarterback Matt Ryan a good bit. They were putting hits on him and forcing mistakes and bad decisions. I think that’s what they’re about, the attitude and the fact that they’re going to hit you and hit you hard. It’s all mental with them and that’s what I took away from it. They did a really great job of setting that tone during that game. We came out and obviously we had our game plan but you could tell they were trying to impose their will on us and they did a really great job, speaking in the past when I was with the Falcons, obviously I’m with Oakland, so I think the Raiders did a really great job. That’s their attitude – beat up on that other guy until they submit.
Q: Since you signed with the Raiders, the reaction that I’ve seen is Falcons fans seem to be pretty disappointed to have lost you and the Raiders fans have shown you a lot of love. Did you expect any of that reaction?
Walker: Honestly I didn’t. I was kind of stressed, not too much, but obviously I’ve been in Atlanta for eight years with Georgia Tech before and Falcons before, so I built a lot of relationships. I don’t know; the fan base here in Atlanta is great as well. Not to say that I expected them to be negative towards me, they’ve shown me a good bit of love. But the Raiders definitely welcomed me to the team with open arms and I do appreciate that. As far as the Falcons, I guess a lot of the fans realize my potential and I get around town a little bit, ‘why’d they let you leave?’ Everything happens for a reason, so I’m not down on it at all, not one bit. I’m very excited for my opportunity. So that’s about it for the most part.
Q: Where did your Twitter handle @SwaggerVance99 come from?
Walker: You know it’s funny, it actually came from Philip Wheeler. Philip Wheeler actually gave me that Twitter handle. It’s in relation to the movie with Will Smith, not that I’ve seen the movie sadly enough, but the Legend of Bagger Vance, so we just switched it up and put the Legend of Swagger Vance. So that’s how it started. That’s what Philip gave me as my Twitter handle. I was like, ‘you know what Phil? That’s a good idea.’
Q: You went to Georgia Tech with Wheeler?
Walker: Yes, I played with him for two years.