CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Ryan Walters thought his career could go one of three ways.
“You can join the military, you can go trade stocks on the stock market, or you can coach football,” Walters said during his Illinois introductory press conference on Friday. “And I’m not good at numbers, and I didn’t feel like going to war.”
So football it was and a good choice nonetheless. Walters is just 34 years old but already has spent a decade coaching at the Division I level, including six seasons at Missouri. And that’s where he worked with new Illini offensive coordinator Tony Peterson, who connected him to Illinois.
“I have goals and aspirations as a coach in this profession and the thing that was attractive about this job was Bret Bielema, seeing the community, and the new chapter, and new challenge,” Walters said.
The California native spent two years as the co-defensive coordinator with the Tigers, before taking full responsibility for the next three. He’s in the same role at Illinois but has the opportunity to build the defense from the ground up.
“You have to do what’s best for your roster and not make your roster do what you want them to do,” Walters said. “That’s the fun part of being a play caller is creating. It’ll be great to start from scratch and not try to marry philosophies or systems. and cater it to what a roster is.”
Adaptability was something he learned in college. He was recruited to Colorado as a quarterback, but chose to move to defensive back to get more playing time. It’s all paying off for the All Big-12 safety.
“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t make that move,” Walters said. “So I’m glad I did.”
As the first defensive hire to Bret Bielema’s staff, Walters hasn’t laid out specifics for a scheme yet.
But he’s certain of what can happen when he’s calling the plays next season.
“We can do something here, that hasn’t been done here in a long time.”