By John Davis
Community Relations Director
A familiar face will be on the sidelines of flag football games this fall at mTrade Park. Joey Walden was hired as an athletic manager for the Oxford Park Commission, and the former Oxford High football standout will be in charge of flag football, youth softball and adult softball moving forward.
“The OPC is a great place to work at, a great organization. I’m excited to be working with everybody here and helping the city out in ways I wasn’t able to,” said Walden, who spent the last couple of years playing professional football in European Football League.
Walden played wide receiver for the Chargers until he graduated in 2014. He joined the Ole Miss Rebels as a walk on with a roster that was heavily stacked with receivers. He wanted a larger role, and ended up transferring to Belhaven University in Jackson where he finished with 50 receptions for 712 yards. Walden’s senior year at Belhaven ended up being cut short as he suffered a season-ending injury.
“I ended up tearing a ligament, so my senior year was two games,” said Walden, who earned a degree in Sports Management & Recreation. “Belhaven told me to have the surgery and the NCAA would approve it. The season ended and (the NCAA) denied it. That’s what continued to drive me to play.
Walden was preparing to play in Canada but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that plan from formalizing. Europe didn’t delay their season, and Walden’s agent thought it would be best for him to head there and get some reps and playing on film. He played for two seasons, first with the Langfield Longhorns and then with the Dusseldorf Panther.
“I went there, got some tape, did some traveling. It was a great experience after the way it ended at Belhaven,” Walden said.
The opportunity to work for the OPC appealed to Walden, who had been helping out OHS coach Chris Cutcliffe on the sidelines. He credited Cutcliffe for helping him secure his new role, as well as his former instructor at Ole Miss, David Waddell, who encouraged him to investigate the opening.
Walden fondly remembers playing OPC baseball and basketball growing up. He said baseball was actually his favorite sport before he really got involved in football at Oxford Middle School.
“When I first started playing football in Florida before moving to Mississippi, the leagues were based on weight, not age,” said Walden, who was 7 playing with 9-year-olds due to his size. “My first position in football was nose tackle. Then when we moved to Clarksdale in 4th grade and was re-introduced to the sport, I started played running back and then eventually got to Oxford and played receiver.”
A future goal for Walden is to also help train local athletes in the finer points of being a receiver or a football player in general. He has seen too many players not achieve a higher level because they didn’t have the right support, guidance or skills.