WILMINGTON – Over the past four years, Wilmington resident Chris Walsh went to three different high schools. He also competed on the football fields for all three schools, playing several different positions, all to help his growth to get to the next level.
This past Friday, the reigning Catholic Central League Lineman of the Year, announced his commitment to continue to play football at the University of Albany, a program that competes in the NCAA Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision as a football-only member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
"One of the reasons I’m going to Albany is because I love how big the school is and it has a really great community," said Walsh. "I wanted to go to a good sized school with a good community. I know that (Head) Coach (Greg) Gattuso runs his program like a family and holds his players accountable for their actions.
“The coaches told me they love how aggressive I play and how I use my hands. They said they love aggressive linemen who know how to use their hands."
Walsh, who stands in at 6-foot-4, 298 pounds, first attended Malden Catholic before transferring to the Tilton School in New Hampshire. There as a junior, he was earned All-NEPSAC Honors and was selected to the USA-Today all New Hampshire team.
After that season, he and his younger brother Harry decided to transfer to Austin Prep and play for first-year head coach Billy Tucker, who had been a family friend. Tucker decided to move Chris from playing defensive end to right guard. It was a move that would hopefully benefit Walsh with collegiate possibilities and obviously it has paid off.
"Chris has a veteran skill set and good understanding of the game," said Tucker to the Town Crier before the 2019 season started. "He can finish blocks and plays with an attitude. We are just working on making him more consistent."
After the AP season ended, Walsh started to get more involved with the recruitment process, which included interest in Wagner College, also in New York, while he also thought about doing a Post-Graduate year. He was asked about how and when Albany became interested.
"My recruiting process with Albany happened pretty fast and late in the game," said Walsh. "Coach Bobby Johnson, who coached the Offensive Line at RPI, recently got hired as an (Offensive Line) assistant and he immediately brought me in to check out the school, meet the coaches, and see if I was interested in playing for them. I instantly fell in love with the program and the school."
This past season, the Great Danes finished 9-5, which included going 1-1 in the playoffs, first beating Central Connecticut before losing to Montana State. The team also had losses to Central Michigan, Monmouth, Richmond and Maine as part of a very competitive schedule.
The 2020 schedule includes games with Delaware, Delaware State, James Madison, William and Mary, Monmouth as well as with Maine, UNH, Rhode Island, UMass and Stony Brook.
The 2019 Albany team had just three residents from Massachusetts, including brothers Joseph and Thomas Greaney of Bedford, and Elijah Ayers of Springfield Central, the team that defeated Tewksbury in the Division 3 Super Bowl in 2018.
Walsh said as of now he plans on studying political science but admitted that could change. Until that decision comes, he's excited about this opportunity.
“This means so much to me,” he said. “My high school career didn’t go as planned, but I always made sure to buy in and work my hardest. Having played for three high schools and always feeling like I was looked over, I’m excited to finally have a home for the next four years. I can’t wait to get to work.”
Walsh comes from a very athletic family. His father Michael was a star athlete at both Malden Catholic and then at Bentley University, where he threw 205 feet in the discus. Michael qualified for the United States Olympics in 1996, but elected not to pursue that dream.
Michael's sister Suzy was also an outstanding athlete at both Wilmington High and Bentley College, as one of the university's all-time track performers.
Chris's mother Cheryl, a registered nurse, has been an avid runner for many years and has competed in several Boston Marathons.
Also in the mix is younger brother Harry, who also stands at 6-foot-4, and will be one of the key returning players for next year's Austin Prep team.
“This means a lot to my family,” said Chris, who also has an older sister Veronica, who attends UMass-Amherst. “Being able to be the first Division 1 athlete in my family means a lot to my family and I. My whole family has been extremely supportive throughout all of this and I know that my little brother Harry will be next.”