Throughout his high school and college careers, Lewis Walker managed to find a place to hide when his teammates trotted off to the weight room.
"I've never lifted weights in my life," said halfback Walker, the Washington Redskins' 10th-round draft pick out of Utah. "I never liked pumping iron. I'd try it for a while, get bored and stop. I just couldn't get into it."
After two days of drills at the Redskins' three-day minicamp for rookies and free agents at Redskin Park, Walker has come to realize he may have to become an overnight Charles Atlas to make the team.
"I weighed only 175 or 180 pounds all my life. I'm at 185 now and that's the heaviest I've ever been," Walker said following a 10-minute session of fielding punts yesterday. "They (Redskins) want me to come back at about 195. The extra weight can help me here. Before, I was afraid it would hurt my speed."
If was Walker's exceptional quickness and ability to avoid the head-on hits that attracted the eye of Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard. Despite carrying the ball only 93 times for the Utes, Walker netted 717 yards for a 7.7 average and scored eight touchdowns. He also handled the team's kickoff and punt-return duties. He was named all-Western Athletic Conference and honorable mention AP all-America.
"Lewis was a productive player in college, though he didn't carry the ball that much, said Beathard. "He's a versatile player with quickness and has a knack for making people miss. He has the running skills and the good speed and hands but he has to get stronger.
"To make the team, he has to really concentrate on getting bigger, especially in the upper body. He's got to work on the weights. He's got more than two months to do it."
The 5-foot-11, 21-year-old already has begun psyching himself into loving the noise of iron clanging together and the sweat that goes along with bench-pressing 300 pounds.
"I'm going back to school to take a few finals, then I'll be back to get on the weights," Walker said. "Football is a big part of me and I plan to do wheatever it takes to make this club. I can learn to love weightlifting very quickly."
Walker, who came up with a 71-yard run the first time he touched the ball at Utah, said he might have worked out with weights in college had he been motivated by the coaching staffs. After two good seasons at Antelope Valley Junior College in California, Walker signed with Utah after being told he would be the player counted on to make the offense go. It didn't work out that way.
Walker became a reserve back for reasons he says he still does not understand, but he says he was determined to show the Utah coaches the error of their ways, each time he played.
"I tried to break long runs every time I went in," said Walker, who had three 70-yards-or-better runs last season. "I thought every time I played I did a good job. Once, I went about 60 yards on a run. On the next play, the quarterback made a bad handoff and the coach took me out. The quarterback even told the coach it was his fault but I didn't play anymore.
"I tried not to let things like that bother me," Walker said. "But I figured why spend long hours in the weight room if I knew I wouldn't play that much?"
Walker became so despondent about the situation he began to wonder if he would be drafted at all.
"I had been contacted earlier by a few clubs, including the Redskins, so I remained optimistic," Walker said."I was told to stay by the phone because I might get picked. They (Redskins) told me it might be late but late is better than never."
A track man in high school, Walker ran 9.7 in the 100 and 21.4 in the 220. He had run 4.3 in the 40 and is consistant at 4.5.
Walker said th brief camp has been beneficial.
"I've learned the terminology and begun to get used to the way the pros do things," he said. "When I come back (July 19), I'll be in condition and ready to go."
At the end of yesterday's workouts, three muscular Resdkins -- Monte Coleman, Buddy Hardemann and Clarence Harmon -- did some wind sprints and started back to the locker room. Hardemann, a running back, paused to catch his breach and asked Walker, 'Do we make your nervous?"
Walker smiles and politely said, "No."
Seconds later, Walker said, "All I want is a chance. For that, I'll work like crazy in the weight room. And I won't gripe."