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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Former University of Idaho, Detroit Lions football player Wayne Walker dies at 80

Wayne Walker played 15 years with the Detroit Lions. (File / SR)
Wayne Walker played 15 years with the Detroit Lions. (File / SR)

Former University of Idaho and NFL football player Wayne Walker died on Friday from complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Walker, 80, lived in his hometown of Boise. He graduated from Boise High in 1954, where he faced Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew of Payette in American Legion baseball.

At UI he played in the Pacific Coast Conference, what is now the Pac-12, as a linebacker and center on the offensive line alongside future NFL Pro Bowler Jerry Kramer. Walker was a captain in 1957, when the 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior was named a second-team center on the All-Pacific Coast Team. His jersey number was retired in 1988.

Former Spokesman-Review writer Harry Missildine once recalled in a 1988 column for The Idahoan that Walker was playing in an alumni game against the Vandals’ varsity in Spokane.

“Walker … was there to play and attend parties before and after, some of which were more strenuous than the ballgame,” Missildine wrote.

An offensive lineman zeroed in on Walker during a sweep to the sideline, hoping to cut off the linebacker before he could reach the ball carrier. As the runner reached the field and tried to cut upfield, Walker stiff-armed the would-be tackler with one hand, upending the hapless collegian, and dropped the runner for a 2-yard loss with his other hand.

“On that play, Walker reminded me of a big, tough cat playing with an uncommonly truculent mouse,” Missildine wrote.

Walker went on to a 15-year NFL career after his fourth-round selection by the Detroit Lions in the 1958 NFL draft , a period of longevity that is is matched only by tight end Jeff Robinson as the longest professional football career of any Vandals player. He played in more than 200 games as an outside linebacker and was named to three Pro Bowls.

He was also Detroit’s kicker and ranks No. 9 on the Lions’ all-time scoring list with 345 points. After his playing career, he spent two decades as a sports broadcaster in the Bay Area, joining KPIX in 1974 as sports director. He also covered the San Francisco 49ers for two stints as an analyst on CBS telecasts and two stints as an analyst on radio broadcasts.

Walker is survived by his wife, Sylvia, daughter Kathy, sons Doug and Steve, and eight grandchildren.

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