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Frank Gore says RB Mark Walton will prove Bengals made right choice drafting him

The Bengals’ fourth-round selection could be special. He’s motivated by his family and already has fans in the NFL.

Miami v Florida State
Walton injured his ankle in this game against Florida State
Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images


Sometimes, it is the one thing that elevates a talented player to the level of the elite.

Tom Brady, who saw six quarterbacks taken before he was finally selected in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, has it.

So does new Bengals running back Mark Walton, who was Cincinnati’s fourth-round selection – 112th overall – in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Like everyone else, Walton is motivated to play well for himself. His father was murdered when he was only seven- or eight-years-old and is also motivated to play for his mother, who always believed in him. She passed away in March 2017 after suffering a stroke.

Walton also has a standard to live up to, a standard that was set by those who played before him at the University of Miami, players like Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Duke Johnson.

But, most of all, Walton is motivated to play well for his one-year-old daughter, Ma’Lani, and for his 15-year-old sister, Viola, who will be living with him when his NFL career begins.

“My daughter’s my drive. She’s my why. I can’t forget about her, ever,” Walton told the Sun Sentinel. “I want to have things set up so she doesn’t have to live how I lived as a young child. I don’t want her to see half the things I saw growing up. I want to make her road as smooth as it can be and if that means me running the ball 12, 13 years to make that happen for her, why wouldn’t I do it? I want my little sister to have a better life. She saw how we grew up. I want to show her something different. Those two, right there, they’re my main focus and why I’m doing everything.”

The Miami product is also motivated by a junior season that was cut short by injury, a season that saw him rush for 428 yards on just 56 carries, an average of 7.6 yards per carry, and score three rushing touchdowns in just four games before suffering a torn ligament in his right ankle. Walton also had seven receptions for 91 yards.

As a sophomore, Walton rushed for 1,117 yards, the seventh-highest total in program history, and 14 touchdowns, which was third-best ever by a Hurricane. He also added 27 receptions for 240 yards and another score.

Even more impressive was the fact that Walton was one of the hardest running backs in college football to bring down. In 2016, he led all ACC running backs by forcing 36 missed tackles and averaging 3.4 yards after contact. In addition, he had 21 carries for 15 or more yards.

Walton made an instant-impression with the Hurricanes, playing in all 13 games as a true freshman and finishing second on the team with 1,054 all-purpose yards. He also led the team with 10 total touchdowns: nine rushing and one receiving.

He hopes to make the same kind of impact with the Bengals.

”He loves the game,’’ Miami coach Mark Richt said of Walton to UM broadcaster Joe Zagacki. “He loves his teammates, he loves the grind of practice, he loves the grind of the strength and conditioning. He just embraces every bit of football. He’s a super fun guy to coach.’’

Walton also has a fan in Gore, who also grew up in Miami and recently joined the Miami Dolphins as their new running back.

“Mark does everything — catches, runs, is tough, loves the game,” Gore told the Miami Herald. “That’s what we do when we’re from Miami. We live, sleep, eat football. Don’t matter what he gets picked, as long as he gets out there, he’ll show that team they made the right choice.’’

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper agreed, calling Walton “a second round talent’’ who could drop into the fourth or fifth round because of the ankle injury. “He looked like a guaranteed third-round pick and then he had the ankle injury. Go back to two years ago, 2016, he was outstanding in a lot of areas. He can catch, he runs inside, he can bounce it to the outside.’’

Talent and motivation. It is a combination that could make Walton special.