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Oklahoma State football: J.W. Walsh is known for his toughness

OSU quarterback's grit outshines his other skills, some of which still need polishing.
BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, Modified: October 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm •  Published: October 10, 2013

— We know J.W. Walsh is tough because of an 8-foot fence, a shoelace and a slice of pizza.

Here's the story.

As a first-grader, a buddy challenged Walsh to a race to his mom's car while at a local track meet. The gate to the parking lot was about 20 yards away, while a fence was right in front of them.

“I just thought I was gonna outsmart him and climb the fence and beat him,” Walsh said.

Walsh started climbing the fence before his shoelace got caught. After hanging there for a couple seconds, his shoe untied and he tumbled to the ground, bracing his fall with both hands.

No one thought he was seriously hurt. That night, he even did his best to pick up that pizza slice to eat for dinner.

It wasn't until the next day that Walsh's mom, Amber, took him to the hospital for X-rays.

Turns out both of his wrists were broken.

“I still won (the race),” Walsh makes sure to mention today. “But it was a painful victory.”

When teammates and coaches list Walsh's best qualities as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback, toughness is almost always near the top. It's a mental and physical trait, a grit that can outshine areas of the sophomore's skill set that are still largely unpolished.

Walsh showed that toughness after that fall as a youngster. He's already shown it at OSU, playing virtually an entire game with a fracture on the side of his kneecap and returning a few weeks later from the injury that was originally identified as a season-ender.

And he's going to need more of that moving forward, as the Cowboys' offense continues to work through the struggles that have plagued them in Big 12 play.

“Human nature for all of us, not only athletes, is when things start to get tough, we fail,” coach Mike Gundy said. “We struggle mentally. We can't persevere.

“I don't think that's ever crossed (Walsh's) mind.”


Walsh credits his father, John, for first instilling that toughness in him. John, a longtime high school football coach in Texas, told his son that leaders couldn't be quitters. That you have to finish what you start.

But John says J.W. really didn't need much of a nudge in that direction. Even as a third-grader, he would jump in line at high school football camps and try to keep up with guys who were twice his age.

“The good Lord wired him that way,” John said. “He's always a pleaser. And to the extent that he was a pleaser, he didn't have to be pushed.

“Whether he was or he wasn't (the best), he was always trying to be. And even at a young age, he was always trying to outwork the next person.”

That mentality continued in the Denton Guyer strength and conditioning program, where J.W. developed his reputation of always finishing first in wind sprints. By his senior year, he could power clean 300 pounds.

When asked about the worst football physical pain he's endured, J.W. settled on a small fracture on the growth plate of his throwing elbow he sustained during a 7-on-7 tournament before his sophomore year.

“That hurt” is all J.W. would say about it.

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Walsh: “We're all banged up out there. They're all hurting, and those guys are still playing. If those guys are still doing that for me, then I'm gonna go do that for them. I'm gonna put it all out there for them because at the end of the day, I don't want to walk off the field going I left something out there for those guys next to me. You don't want to play with regrets, and that's just something I wouldn't be able to live with.”

Coach Mike Gundy: “J.W. has an uncanny ability — and always has since he arrived here — to put aside pain and fatigue. He's got a tremendous cardiovascular system, and up to this point, he's shown the ability to think fast and to compete. That's the greatest asset he has going right now is his ability to lead.”

Father John Walsh: “I know for a fact he's not gonna let (any struggles) eat him up. It's just not in him. And he knows what he's gotta do. And then on the flip side, when they have a big game, he's gotta to make sure he handles it the same way.”

Receiver Josh Stewart: “Coach Gundy said all the time the quarterback's gotta be the toughest guy on the team, and that he is.”

Offensive lineman Brandon Webb: “I always ask him when we're running, I'm like, ‘Do you want to run some for me, since you've got so much effort left?'… It's actually pretty amazing how hard he works consistently. I'm in awe of him.”

Receiver Charlie Moore: “I kind of even want to come back this offseason just to watch him work out. That's how hard he works.”


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