When thinking about his struggles under center last season, junior quarterback P.J. Walker’s mind wanders back 13 years.
Walker played football for the first time at seven years old, after his mother Tamicha Drake signed him up for the Elizabeth PAL Minutemen. He played quarterback for the Minutemen, one of the 24 North Jersey Pop Warner teams.
“That is something that I look back and remember that football is fun,” Walker said. “Don’t think of football as a business or a job. Just go out there and have fun because if you aren’t having fun, you are doing something wrong.”
In nine appearances — including seven starts — as a freshman, Walker threw for 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ranked 22nd in the FBS with a 150.8 passing efficiency and 19th in the FBS in passing yards per completion.
In 2014, Temple’s passing offense ranked 86th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Walker threw 15 interceptions, seven more than he had during his freshman campaign.
“I feel like offensively, we took a step back last season,” Walker said. “We made a lot of plays my freshman year. We made a lot of things happen.”
The junior, who averaged 11.41 yards per completion and had a 107.8 passing efficiency last year, which ranked 75th and 100th in the FBS, respectively, said his struggles in 2014 came from trying to replicate his freshman campaign.
“It’s all a growing process,” Walker said. “I was still trying to do too much stuff. I was thinking I was able to do things [last season] I did my freshman year that I got lucky on.”
Walker said an unfocused approach prevented his success on the practice field from showing on game day.
“I missed a lot of throws that I should have completed just by not taking the throw seriously,” Walker said of last season. “Every throw counts.”
The quarterback heads into his junior season with his mistakes behind him. He dropped 12 pounds this offseason and began work with his new quarterbacks coach, Glenn Thomas.
Thomas, who spent the last seven seasons as a coach with the Atlanta Falcons, has given Walker a new approach.
“I expect perfection,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day if you expect anything less, that is what you will get. I’m pushing them to expect perfection. I’m pushing them for efficiency.”
In 21 career games, Walker has thrown 23 interceptions. Forgetting about mistakes is something that Thomas has emphasized with Walker.
“[Thomas’s] mentality is next play, which is something that helps a lot of quarterbacks because if you make a bad throw, you harp on it,” Walker said. “He said you can worry about it in the film room … I used to get hung up on bad plays. That is something that I got over now. If I make a bad play, I let it go.”
Junior running back Jahad Thomas, Walker’s teammate at Elizabeth High School in New Jersey, has already noticed improvement in Walker’s play.
“Freshman and sophomore year, there was some bumps in the road,” Thomas said. “He didn’t know everything. But now he gets it and you can see it.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 215.204.9537, or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.