Friday, June 30, 2006

Randy Walker Dead at 52 [J. Mark English]

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Northwestern coach Randy Walker's sudden death left the school stunned Friday, with players praising him as an inspirational leader.

"I'll never forget coach Walker," kicker Joel Howells said, his voice cracking during a somber news conference on campus. "He's had a huge impact on my life the last four or five years. If you really knew him, I don't know how you wouldn't remember him.

"A lot of guys are still kind of in shock."

Walker, 52, died Thursday of an apparent heart attack, after feeling chest pains around 10 p.m. at his suburban Chicago home, said Mike Wolf, the school's assistant athletic director for media services."Everything he taught us could be applied to life," linebacker Nick Roach said. "You can't really measure something like that."

Two months ago, Northwestern gave Walker a four-year extension through the 2011 season. He joined the school in 1999 after nine years at Miami of Ohio.

"He was a tough, demanding coach," athletic director Mark Murphy said.

In October 2004, Walker checked himself into a hospital after experiencing chest pains. He was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle; the condition is not a common ailment, and is usually caused by a virus.