MISSOULA — It's hard to miss Chris Walker, thanks to his exterior appearance.
He stands 6-foot-6, weighs 304 pounds, and of course, has a massive beard.
"I get like an inch (trimmed off) every time I get a haircut, but I haven't gotten a haircut in a while," Walker laughed in an interview with MTN Sports. "So we're just gonna kind of let it go for the rest of the season."
It's the build — and optics — of a true, hard-nosed offensive lineman, and a mountain man frame that fits perfectly for the Montana Grizzlies.
But Walker's career has been unique as he wraps up his final season of college football.
A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, the dream was always to suit up for Nebraska, as any kid from the Cornhusker State would desire.
"Nebraska kid, you grew up dreaming about playing for them," Walker said. "Damn near broke my heart to leave. I mean, I gave them everything I had, and just looking for another opportunity to pursue football, I suppose."
After five seasons playing defensive line at Nebraska, Walker found his way to Montana last season, because the Grizzlies saw something in him no one else did.
"When I entered the transfer portal, all my offers that came in were at D-line," Walker said. "Montana was the only one that wanted to convert me into O-line. I saw this as just a new opportunity to challenge myself and go have an adventure. I've never really done that in my life. So just wanted something different."
So Walker moved more than 1,000 miles away to Missoula from Lincoln, where last year he assimilated with the Grizzlies and earned the starting left tackle job, though the learning curve was steep.
"A trial by fire, kind of get thrown in the mix and see how you do," Walker said of his arrival. "I still remember the first practice over the summer being down here. I didn't even have any Griz gear. I was in a Nebraska t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. They kind of threw me in to see what I could do to the point where my guard was pointing to the guy I was supposed to go hit. So from there, I mean, just advanced a little bit every day and been having a blast ever since.
"I weigh about 40 pounds heavier than I did when I originally came here. So that's definitely been to my advantage this year, I believe. But like that goes back to the group of guys that I have could not have done it without them. They've been absolutely amazing. Just teaching me and all the repetition. Just mastering every little skill."
At the conclusion of last season, Walker was assumed done with college football.
But he missed about 2½ years of football at Nebraska with injury, so a surprise was in store for him.
"Last year, about this time, I was already moved back at Nebraska" Walker said. "A couple days later, I got the call from coach (Bobby) Hauck saying that they're able to get me my medical year. So I was able to come up and get that extra year. And it was a very, very quick decision. I wasn't done here. I felt like I was just getting the hang of things. So now, I feel definitely like one of the older guys roles, I suppose. So just trying to help my team best I can."
"Blessing, I mean, a lot of guys after their last game, I mean, that's it. I mean, they get there four (years), they get their five, maybe. And that's it, hang up the cleats, and you can't really argue about it. I was given an extra opportunity to come show what I got, I suppose."
And he's done just that, as Walker earned honorable mention all-conference awards from the Big Sky Conference at left tackle this year, and has helped put the Grizzlies on the doorstep of the FCS national championship game, an opportunity in each game he's not taking for granted.
"I traveled to a state I've never been to, a university I've never been to, a position I haven't played since high school," Walker said. "I earned the starting spot. Damn proud."
"I mean, it's been a blessing for myself. Like I said I could not have done it with my without my teammates and coaches here guiding me. I was a lost puppy when I first got here. You gotta take advantage of these moments. And I mean, yeah, some of these practices are gonna suck, but like getting how many other guys in the country are done right now? Right? Those seniors will never put pads on again. So, I mean, just got to take advantage of it."