Kent Walker will be the first to tell you one thing.
In no way, shape or form is he expecting to be able to fill the shoes of older brother Jeff Walker, the Panthers’ late head coach and athletic director, nor does he envision himself doing so.
But, for the five games he took over as interim head coach at the end of the Panthers’ season, he certainly did a fine job of convincing people otherwise, leading the Purple-and-Gold to four wins in five playoff games and taking them to the brink of a berth in the Class 5A state championship game.
As a result, Walker has been honored by Texas High School Football with its Coach of the Year award after easily outdistancing Shiner’s Daniel Boedeker with 64 percent of an online vote.
Walker was characteristically modest after the award was announced, deflecting accolades to those around him.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for what I was able to do in a very difficult situation,” he said. “But, all credit goes to our kids and other coaches because they’re the ones who made it all possible. I was just the one who steered the ship.”
Walker beat out nine other coaches who won state titles this season with their respective teams in the voting, including Todd Dodge of Class 6A Division I Westlake, Gary Joseph of Class 6A Division II Katy, Dave Henigan of Class 5A Division I Ryan and Tim Buchanan of Class 5A Division II Aledo.
Walker added he felt a sense of responsibility to Panthers players to be strong in the face of the events surrounding his brother’s passing and the consequent effect they had on the program in moving forward.
“For me to lose my brother and then walk into the locker room,” he said. “I know all of them were looking to see how I was going to respond.”
Walker said a simple formula is what enabled him to prevail under such adverse conditions.
“As long as you continue to put the kids first, you can overcome things,” he said. “I do what I love to do – it’s not like a job to me when I get up every day and realize what a special community we have here in Liberty Hill.”