Forty-six football fields. Then another five steps, depending on how long your legs are. That’s what Ball State Football received from Edinboro, Pennsylvania, this fall.
Walter Fletcher, a graduate transfer running back from Division II Edinboro University, totaled 4,605 yards from scrimmage in three years as a Fighting Scot. After deciding to explore Division I opportunities, Ball State was one of his first calls.
“I’d already watched his tape. I’d already had a chance to meet with him face-to-face. I’d already had a chance to interact with him and see what he’s all about,” head coach Mike Neu said. “Everything checked off. I was really excited when we found out Walter was coming to join us.”
Fletcher said he felt right at home in Muncie since his visit before the school year started, and that’s ultimately what convinced him to come to Ball State.
“I feel like I’ve been part of the family since the summer,” Fletcher said. “The guys have welcomed me with open arms, and I just want to have a successful season.”
Through three games this season, he has become what offensive coordinator Joey Lynch describes as a “very good complement” to Caleb Huntley, the Cardinals’ 226-pound starting running back.
Following James Gilbert’s departure from the team in late November, Huntley was the natural choice to slide into the starting role in the backfield. Huntley rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman in 2017, filling in for an injured Gilbert, and was listed second on the depth chart last year.
Huntley is a physical, downhill runner. Once Fletcher — a smaller, quicker player who is a threat in the pass game — came around, Huntley said defenses will have their hands full.
“He provides another option with his speed and his ability to catch,” Huntley said. “Definitely a one-two punch. The defense has got to figure out how to stop both of us, whether it’s the run game, pass game and just different little things thrown at them.”
Huntley compared Fletcher’s style to the Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey, whose career rushing yards are almost identical to his receiving yards. Neu and Lynch likened him to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Darren Sproles, who has actually gained 1,300 more yards receiving that rushing over his 15-year career.
Fletcher’s receiving numbers at Ball State have already doubled his rushing numbers, and he said that’s something he focuses on.
“I pride myself on catching the ball out of the backfield,” Fletcher said. “Catching the ball in space, making people miss and just being a dynamic player is something I pride myself on. I would say I’m an all-around back. I can do a little bit of everything.”
Ball State fans witnessed Fletcher’s abilities in his first game as a Cardinal in Lucas Oil Stadium. Redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt dumped a pass down to Fletcher just past the line of scrimmage. He broke one tackle, accelerated down the left sideline and outran the defense for a 45-yard touchdown.
There isn’t Fantasy Football for the NCAA, but Neu said he’d find a way to get Fletcher on his team if there was.
“I think he’s got the ability on any touch to go the distance,” Neu said. “I feel really good when the ball’s in his hands.”
Fletcher and the Cardinals will be back on the field 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at NC State looking to get back to .500 before Mid-American Conference play begins.