Linebacker Quay Walker talks about his role in the Bulldogs' defense and the infamous hat toss of a Volunteers cap during signing announcement. (Video by Chip Towers/AJC)

Georgia’s Quay Walker glad to move on from ‘regretful’ Tennessee hat toss

But Walker, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound sophomore linebacker, knows there’s no escaping now. He talked to reporters after a practice Tuesday for the first time since he put his name on the dotted line in February 2018 and he knew the subject was going to come up.

“I hate talking about it,” said Walker, who starred at Crisp County High School in Cordele. “But I know it’s going to be something that’s brought up the rest of my life, just about. Looking back on it, I think it was very immature of me to do that. But at the same time, I’m just a kid from a small town that was just happy to be where I was.”

Walker and coach Kirby Smart talked about the whole episode not long after it happened.

“Yeah, he regretted it after the fact,” Smart said Tuesday. “It wasn't a proud moment for him. It was a moment where he probably succumbed to all the hoopla and just caught up in the moment. He and I talked about it. He understands it, and it's something he can learn from.”

It was probably good to go ahead and get it out of the way now. It will surely come up again a month from now when the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs get ready to play Tennessee in Knoxville (Oct. 5). Obviously, they’re two programs that have gone in opposite directions since then. But Walker readily admits that at one time he was close to picking the Volunteers, and he was recruited long and hard by coach Jeremy Pruitt.

But recruiting was a very difficult and pressure-packed time for Walker. He was actually committed to Alabama for a time, too.

Now in his second season at Georgia, Walker couldn’t be happier. Which is not say all has been smooth and easy. Hardly.

Despite his elite recruiting profile — Walker was a high-graded 4-star prospect and the No. 2 outside linebacker in the country, per 247Sports — he has found it hard to get onto the field for the Bulldogs and has yet to start to a game. He played in all 14 games last season, but contributed mainly on special teams.

The primary holdup has been the transition he made from outside linebacker to inside linebacker. Now in year two, Walker is getting on the field more. He was part of a rotation against Vanderbilt on Saturday that included starters Monty Rice and Tae Crowder along with fellow sophomore Channing Tindall.

“When you move inside, it changes your world,” Smart said. “You go from seeing one thing, to seeing everything and you’ve got five linemen that come at you and things are going sideways. He struggled some last year and got frustrated. Then this year, it’s amazing how far he’s come with understanding our defense, and being able to pick things up.”

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