Zion Chapel pair sign with Faulkner

Published 2:34 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Zion Chapel senior football players Shaun Smith and Hayden Walden signed their letters-of-intent to play college football at Faulkner University in Montgomery on Feb. 1.

Smith, a five-foot-11-inch, 210-pound linebacker was also forced to play on the offensive line in his senior season due to injuries. Smith finished the season grading out at 89.5 percent as a lineman, with nine pancakes and two knockdowns. On defense, Smith tallied 54 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. He held other offers from schools like The College of Wooster and McPherson College in Ohio.

Walden, right, will play linebacker at Faulkner.

“It felt like home ever since the first time I visited (Faulkner) back in my sophomore year,” Smith said. “I’ve had family that graduated from there and they have a rich culture and build from the inside and love to develop. That’s one thing I noticed from the get go.

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“They take pride in their program and they’ve been there since day one talking to me. I’ve loved the vibe up there from the start.”

Smith, who plans to major in exercise science, said his goals for college are simply to continue to develop all-around.

“I want to get better as a human, academically and athletically and I know (Faulkner) is a great place to grow and build,” Smith emphasized. “Along the way, I’ll become a better athlete and human being and that’s really all I want in life.”

Walden, a 6-foot-3-inch, 285-pound offensive lineman, earned All-Messenger honors as a senior, grading out at 85.4 percent on his assignments during the 2022 campaign. He earned 10 pancakes and eight knockdowns playing both offensive guard and tackle. While Walden said that other schools like Birmingham Southern and Wooster were looking at him, ultimately he wanted to play college football with his high school teammate.

“Going with my friend was big to me,” Walden said. “I just want to go and play football with my friend. It’s also close, so I can go home and watch some games if I want to and be with my friends back home.”

Smith signs his letter-of-intent with Faulkner.

Walden said he’s looking forward to the college life.

“I really want to get a mechanical or civil engineering degree and just live out college life and play some football,” he flatly said.

In the past 10 years, just one Rebel has signed a college football offer. Smith and Walden doubled that number in the same year.

“It feels great that we can do something to make a path so that others can sign,” Walden said. “They know they can do it if we did it.”

Smith said the possibilities will definitely be there for future Rebels.

“We have guys here with talent and academically, we’re a great school,” Smith emphasized. “People here will have opportunities, it’s just about who wants to take that opportunity and grow on it. I think it comes down to the culture and I think we have a great (culture) growing here at Zion.”