Walled off: senior tackle Ben Walling looks to push Laker offense to elite level
GVL / Archive
Linemen are the toughest competitors in football, and Grand Valley State's Ben Walling is no exception. Standing at six-feet-five-inches tall and weighing 295 pounds, he has become acclimated to walling off the competition for more than three years now at GVSU.
Walling has established himself as one of the GLIAC’s best offensive tackles. With 37 consecutive starts including playoff games under his belt, the 2017 first team all-GLIAC right tackle has consistently anchored the right side of an offensive line that has had little trouble imposing its will since Walling arrived on campus in 2014.
In those 37 starts since Walling took over at right tackle, he has helped the Lakers to a 31-6 record. Thanks in part to his blocking, the offense has averaged 38.1 points per game with 262.4 yards per game through the air and 193 yards per game rushing over the same period of time.
When asked what has allowed him and his offensive line to be so successful, he attributes their success to GVSU offensive line coach Tim Morrison.
“I’ve been really fortunate with Coach Morrison," Walling said. "He’s taught me a lot about big picture offense and not just my specific position."
Along with the help from Morrison, Walling also attributes his success to his ability to think on his feet and be one of the smartest players on the field.
“I feel my football I.Q. is pretty high," Walling said. "On the offensive side of the ball, the only thing I don’t know is route combinations for the wide receivers,”
On top of his continued improvement, Walling has also noticed an improvement in the team's chemistry.
“I think we’re playing more together this year,” Walling said. “Last year it felt like there were a lot of independent operators. I feel like there were a lot of guys saying 'where’s mine?', and we're worrying more about the individual.”
According to Walling, what contributes to this thought process has been two things: recent transfers and the defense's selfless nature.
“Our transfers are probably the best group of transfers we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Walling said.
Starting right guard David Dawson, a senior transfer from the University of Michigan, defensive lineman Kurrell Vaughn, a junior transfer from Southeastern Louisiana University and starting running back Chawntez Moss, a junior transfer from the University of Pittsburgh are among those who stand out according to Walling.
“Dave Dawson completely embodied the Grand Valley way when he got here,” said Walling, “Kurrell Vaughn, a d-lineman, he’s doing very well and not worried about getting his. He’s kind of like Dave where they’re both premier players that came to DII and completely bought in. Chawntez [Moss] is one of those too.”
Their selfless nature has helped keep the team together and focused on the goal of winning as opposed to just individual statistics according to Walling.
“We’ve been getting off to some slow starts offensively," Walling said. "But the defense doesn’t have a problem going out there and keep getting stops and cheering us on from the sideline.”
Stops are exactly what the defense has provided. GVSU has given up only 31 points through three games in 2018 against Indianapolis, Delta State and Northern Michigan, two of which made the NCAA playoffs last year.
In terms of his football career, Walling has not allowed the sustained success he has had at GVSU influence his thought process.
“There may be a future in football, but as of sitting here right now, I’m not really worrying about it," Walling said. "I’m worried about the 2018 season, going 1-0 each week and continue on through with that hopefully through December.”
NFL scouts have shown interest, and Walling admits the idea of playing in the NFL has crossed his mind, but he is not letting it distract him from his current goals.
“We’ve had some scouts come in and where I’m at with it is if there’s a legitimate shot, I’m going to go for it and maybe make something out of nothing but I’ll just see what the scouts see and go from there.”
Once Walling’s football career comes to a close, he said he is not sure where his next move will be. He has opportunities in his major - occupational safety - with Steelcase, a Grand Rapids-based furniture company, or his family’s residential construction company back home in Kentucky.
“I interned at Steelcase for two years and they said they’d like to keep me for as long as they can,” Walling said. “So whether it’s within my degree in safety or the business back home, those are kind of the two paths I have laid out for myself.”