Ricky Walker will lead his team into battle one last time on New Years' Eve

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -- Virginia Tech Defensive Tackle Ricky Walker will lead his unit into battle one last time at the Military Bowl on New Years' Eve.

In a season where the Hokies defense battled key injuries and unexpected departures, Walker was the anchor that held an inexperienced unit together.

As the only starting senior on D, the man Bud Foster dubbed the "Bell Cow" battled through a slow start after a career year in 2017.

"I feel like my second half of the season made up for a lot. I think as of now I have 10.5 TFLs, which is pretty good for me and getting doubled and all that. I just feel like after the Georgia Tech game, guys just had to step up and turn it up a notch," Walker said.

And he did - posting 7.5 of his 10.5 tackles for loss in the team's final five games.

Perhaps the highlight of that stretch came in the season finale against Marshall, when Walker forced a fumble on the very first play from scrimmage to set the tone in a game that would extend Virginia Tech's bowl streak to 26 seasons.

"I'm happy for Ricky because he's a guy that's just put so much into this program and been a big factor of our turnaround, even though this year, as we've said, was not the year that obviously as a senior you would want, but he's been a big, big part of what the last couple years of turning this thing around, and being part of the transition," defensive coordinator Bud Foster said.

Walker, who received second-team All-ACC honors, says he draws inspiration from his old roommates - guys like Terrell Edmunds and Greg Stroman - who are now making an impact on Sundays.

"You know, that's just what we were talking about in the dorms, late night staying up doing push-ups or talking junk about high school, competing, you know, that's the stuff that we do. And you know, guys' dreams is right there unfolding in front of them and hopefully I'll be next," he said.

Once his Hokie career ends after the Military Bowl against Cincinnati, Walker will play in the East-West Shrine Game before setting his sights on the next level.

"After the Bowl game, I'll be heading down to Tampa to go train. I got invited to the NFLPA bowl. Yeah, just excited for this next chapter. Getting ready to hopefully fulfill my dream and just get ready for these next couple months. Just keep my head down and keep working," Walker said.