Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Walton Ready for Swan Song

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Walton Ready for Swan Song

Article excerpt

Chomping on a cigar while overlooking the field at the stadium that bears his name, Joe Walton was thinking a few months in advance.

It will be in November -- or, hopefully for him, December -- when his work will be complete, something which the 77-year-old coach dwells on with a level of uncertainty.

Walton has spent the past 62 summers of his life involved in some kind of football camp, from a player at Beaver Falls High School all the way to an NFL head coach in the 1980s. For the past 20 years, it has been at Robert Morris, where he has built the school's football program from scratch.

The 2013 season will be Walton's last, as he will retire from the game to which he has dedicated so much of his life.

"I wonder how I'll feel at the end of the season and, of course, at the beginning of next year," Walton said. "I've been doing it so long."

That proverbial ride into the sunset, however, will not come without the passage of another season, one that his team hopes can be a proper sendoff to one of the university's athletic patriarchs.

Despite coming off an underwhelming 2012 campaign in which the Colonials finished 4-7, which was actually an improvement over their 2-9 mark in 2011, the team returns a wealth of talent that should allow it to be more competitive.

On the offensive side, Robert Morris' top two receivers are back. Oliver product Donte Jeter and Duane Mitchell, along with the team's leading rusher, Evan Taylor (915 yards, 4.6 yards per carry). Meanwhile, a defense that gave up 26.6 points per game last season will have the good fortune of bringing back four of its top seven tacklers, a group led by senior linebacker Mike Cook and his 88 total tackles (the most on the team by 12 tackles).

The starter at the quarterback position is unsettled, but the answer to that question is one that could potentially pay some major dividends. Penn State transfer Paul Jones understandably gets much of the attention and could very likely get the nod, but sophomore Derik Abbott has a year of experience in the Colonials offensive system.

Experience was something players routinely cited when explaining their outlook for the season and it's something they figure to rely upon if they hope to accomplish the same goals they always have -- a Northeast Conference championship and a spot in the NCAA Division I- AA playoffs. …

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