High school athletics: Salisbury’s Walker is Misenheimer Award winner

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024


Deuce Walker.


By Mike London

ATLANTA — Salisbury High graduate and Georgia State University freshman Curtis Walker Jr., known to the world as Deuce, received a four-word text recently that simultaneously brought tears to his eyes and a grin to his face.

“Welcome to the club!” the text read.

The text was from Jalon Walker, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound scholar who plays linebacker for the University of Georgia.

Jalon is the older brother Deuce always has looked up to. Jalon is a young man that all Salisbury High athletes look up to.

Deuce has grown up trying to emulate the lofty standard his father Curtis set as an All-America linebacker and Catawba College Hall of Famer. He’s also had to live up to the sky-high standard that Jalon set as one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits during a stellar career at Salisbury High that included a state championship.

Deuce has emerged from those long, tall shadows as a shining star in his own right. The “club” that Jalon’s text referred to was Deuce’s selection as the Darrell Misenheimer Award winner for the 2023-24 school year. That award goes to the Rowan County Male Athlete of the Year.

“Before the school year started, I put a list together of things I wanted to accomplish my senior year,” Deuce said. “It was a list of things that Jalon had done, things that I hoped to match, plus a few things he didn’t get to do. Athlete of the Year was one of his big accomplishments that I really wanted to equal. I worked as hard as I could to try to get there.”

Darrell Misenheimer was a terrific, three-sport athlete at East Rowan in the mid-1970s. A powerful wrestler, a Shrine Bowl football lineman recruited by Clemson and a thrower who left a permanent imprint on Rowan County track and field. He had a throw of 61 feet, 5 1/2 inches that may stand as the county record forever. He was Western North Carolina High School Activities Association champion in the shot put in 1974 and 1975. In 1975, he had the greatest shot put effort in the long history of the WNCHSAA Championships.

A Rowan County Athlete of the Year Award has been given to a male and female recipient since 1975, a year in which Misenheimer and Salisbury’s Danny Winecoff shared the first male award. A long-time coach in Rowan County, Misenheimer died in an accident in 2014. The award has been given in his honor since 2015. The first recipient was Carson’s Brandon Sloop.

Deuce first learned that he was the man of the year from Salisbury football coach Clayton Trivett. Trivett sent him a text that included a picture of the glossy Darrell Misenheimer Award.

“That text was the first that I heard about winning the award,” Deuce said. “A lot went through my mind. It was the best feeling in the world to be recognized for being good in multiple sports.”

Walker is the fourth straight male winner from Salisbury. Jalon Walker started that run, edging football teammate Vance Honeycutt, who has gone on to an All-America baseball career at North Carolina. Track state champ and football star Marcus Cook won in 2022.

Salisbury’s QB Mike Geter, who should be outstanding for Catawba, won the 2023 award as a junior, and it’s not like Geter dropped off any as a senior. Deuce’s toughest competition for the honor was Geter, who was voted the Central Carolina Conference Male Athlete of the Year.

Geter and Walker were teammates in football (both broke school records) and basketball (both were modest scorers but key players). They were instrumental in those teams winning league championships and attaining statewide prominence in 2A.

The narrow separation between Walker and Geter in the Post’s estimation came during the spring where they competed for different teams.

Geter was a good baseball player, an all-county and all-conference center fielder for a decent squad that fell short of the playoffs.

Walker’s outdoor track season was exceptional. He was the standout sprinter in the Rowan County and CCC meets, winning the 100 and 200, and his wheels helped make Salisbury a factor at the state level in a third sport. Walker ran on two strong relay units in the state meet, as the Hornets placed fifth in the team scoring. The Hornets ran excellent times in the 4×100 (fourth place) and 4×200 (fifth place).

A hamstring injury derailed Walker’s junior track season, but his senior comeback proved huge for the Hornets, who counted heavily on their relay teams for points.

“Deuce showed up for practice every day with a strong work ethic,” Salisbury track coach Romar Morris said. “He had that chip on his shoulder and he had something to prove this year. Having him back was great for team morale, and it meant a lot to him to be able to end his senior year having success in the state meet with his teammates.”

In basketball, Salisbury had Wake Forest recruit Juke Harris, the most prolific scorer in county history, so Walker wasn’t asked to score. What he did was defend and rebound. He proved to be an extraordinary rebounder for a 5-foot-10 forward, as Salisbury racked up championships in the Christmas Tournament, the CCC regular season and the CCC Tournament.

Salisbury won four playoff games before meeting Reidsville at a neutral site in the regional final. Reidsville’s 6-foot-7, backboard-shattering Kendre Harrison was named National Male Athlete of the Year by MaxPreps, but it will be remembered that Walker had nine rebounds (and eight points) in a 76-72 loss to the eventual 2A state champs.

“We crashed the boards,” Walker said. “Obviously, we were out-sized by a lot, but if you play hard enough, you can overcome size.”

Salisbury coach Albert Perkins described Walker all season long as the team’s unsung hero.

“He was a great teammate and a great player to coach,” Perkins said. “Loved Deuce’s energy on and off the court, and he would do whatever you asked. He thrived in taking on a defensive challenge and making life hard for the opposition. His contributions to our team didn’t always show up in the stat line, but he meant so much to our success.”

On the football field, Walker was a two-way player, as Salisbury head coach Clayton Trivett was willing to use both Walker and Geter, both of whom played in the prestigious Shrine Bowl, in the defensive backfield as well as on offense.

Walker and Geter were talented enough to play on the Salisbury varsity as freshman. That helped them break three major school career records apiece. Walker set new school standards for receiving yards (1,827), receptions (111) and touchdown catches (25).

Walker broke Salisbury’s single-season records for receptions (53) and receiving yards (714) as a senior. He scored 14 touchdowns his senior year, 10 on receptions, two on rushes and two on defense.

“Deuce’s work ethic and determination from the first day I met him let me know he was going to be successful,” Trivett said. “He’s the kind of player every coach wants, no matter the sport. He’s a special talent, a great leader.”

On Aug. 31, all the Walkers will have a day that probably should be made into a movie. Jalon and his Georgia teammates will take on Clemson at noon in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. At 8 p.m., Deuce will make his college debut for Georgia State in a game against Georgia Tech (and West Rowan grad Zeek Biggers) at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

One day, one city, two Division I football games, four Walkers. Jalon and Deuce’s mom, LaSheka Foxx Walker, was a very good athlete at North Rowan.

It will be a memorable day for two parents and two athletic siblings who have brought the family a lot of joy and who now share membership in an exclusive club.

“It’s hard to put into words all that this award means to me,” Deuce said. “I’m honored, I’m humbled and I feel very blessed.”