18 Oct 2017 Fighting to the finish: Beebe’s Mason Walker
by Mark Oliver
In just three weeks, Mason Walker’s career with the Beebe Badgers will be over. Despite falling short of a playoff berth, however, the senior quarterback/safety shines as a motivational light for his team and his community and won’t give up on trying to finish strong.
“Although we won’t make the playoffs, our season isn’t over yet,” Walker said. “It would be easy for us to get our heads down about it, but that’s not who we are. It’s football — it doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Over the next three weeks, we’re going to play every game like it’s our last. We love the game, and because of that, we’re going to play our hearts out on the field.”
Walker was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 25 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team, sponsored by Conway Ortho and Sports Medicine, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank, boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. Walker was nominated by his head coach, John Shannon.
“Mason is a great leader, student and competitor,” Shannon wrote in his nomination. “He loves to compete, is very unselfish and loves to see his teammates do well. He is one of the best kids that I have ever had the privilege to coach.”
“On the field, Mason is athletic, versatile and a tough-minded player,” said Shane Smith, Badgers play-by-play announcer for B2 Internet Radio. “He is a three-year starter who successfully came back from an ACL injury he suffered as a sophomore, is team oriented and puts his teammates first. He is a very nice young man whom you wouldn’t have a problem wanting to date your daughter.”
Walker says one of the best decisions he’s made was suiting up for the Badgers five years ago.
“I’ve been playing football since seventh grade,” Walker said. “It’s a social game — I joined the team because all my friends were doing it — and I have made a lot of great friendships along the way. Khalil Anthony and Connor Bieker have been some of my closest friends on and off the field. Even though this year has had its ups and downs, we’ve made great memories together along the way.”
This week, the Badgers (2-5, 0-4 5A Central) look to play spoiler against Mills — a team looking to keep its playoff hopes alive.
“Mills is a lot like us,” Walker said. “They may not be the best team in the conference, but they have some athletes. We’ve beaten them in the past, and I think that if we take care of the little things and execute our game plan as well as we can, it should be a breeze for us.”
With his head held high, Walker says the team still has much to work toward before the season is over.
“Before the season began, I made a personal goal to become a better leader for the younger guys on the team,” Walker said. “I wanted to be someone for them to look up to, talk to and confide in. I think that I’ve accomplished that. For the rest of the season, our goal is to give it everything we have so that when it’s over, there’s no regrets.”
As one of the team’s senior leaders, Walker sees each game as an opportunity to grow the future of Beebe Badgers football.
“When things go wrong, it’s easy to point fingers and assign blame,” Walker said. “But it’s important for our underclassmen to know how to buy in, win as a team and lose as a team. We all love the game, but at the end of the day, what really matters is that you were there with your team. I can sit there and be sad about missing the playoffs or use my time as an opportunity to lead by example and show our younger players what you have to do when the cards are stacked against you.”
Walker also plays soccer at Beebe and gives back to his community through the school’s food pantry. The senior is also involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and serves as a mentor for his classmates.
“I’m a mentor to a group of 20 freshmen every day in study hall,” Walker said. “I help them out with both life advice and homework advice.”
As the senior ponders his future after graduation, he’s sure about one thing — he’ll never forget his time playing on Wooten Field at Beebe High School.
“As a team, we’ve always faced adversity,” Walker said. “We’ve never been the greatest football team out there, but we have always given it our all and have always kept our heads up. At Beebe, we play as a family, and I’ll always love the time I spent with every one of my teammates.”
Beebe plays at Mills at 7 p.m. Friday.