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Special Report: Wonder Boy Walden

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- In late November of 2023, when UTEP was on the hunt to find a head coach to create a new era of Miner Football, UTEP Athletic Director, Jim Senter had a name in mind that would take the Miner Football program in a direction it has never been in before.  

Scotty Walden, a Cleburne, Texas native who spent three years as the offensive coordinator at East Texas Baptist University before his promotion to head coach in 2016, making him the youngest head coach in the NCAA at just 26 years old.

In 2020, after a brief stint as interim head coach for Southern Miss, coach Walden was immediately hired to head up the Austin Peay football squad in Clarksville, Tennessee.

In his final season, Walden led the Governors to an undefeated 6-0 Western Athletic Conference record. He also ushered the team through two conference championships, which made him the only coach in Austin Peay history to win two conference titles.

After spending four seasons there, coach Scotty Walden, one of the most energetic coaches in college football brought that contagious energy to El Paso.

“When he enters a room when he’s there with you or anybody as a group of people he starts to talk and the more he talks and the higher his voice gets," UTEP Athletic Director Jim Center said. "He starts doing things and starts getting people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do because they might be reserved and he would be sitting there saying no, we’re not going to let you be reserved now, we’re going to get fired up, let’s go!”

Walden's priority was to establish a new team culture. 

“I believe as football players we have to be leaders," UTEP's head football coach Scotty Walden said. "We have to carry ourselves in a certain way, even when we walk across that campus so dressing a certain way making sure we care about what we look like before we go in the classroom. We’ll put a football in your hands late. There’s so many things that have to be done before we can even talk about executing on the field.”

To help define the culture, coach Walden brought almost all of his staff from Austin Peay, as well as 11 players to help build a new foundation to UTEP's football program. 

"If i"m going to follow somebody, it needs to be somebody that I really trust," UTEP's quarterback Skyler Locklear said. "Who you see, is who he is. Behind the scenes, all the time."

The players seem to be buying into Walden’s new philosophy.

“I told our guys we’re gonna sit in the front two rows of every class," coach Walden said. "The other day I got a story about how you got eight or nine chairs in this class and one of our kids is like, I know I’m about to get in trouble because all chairs are taken. Then, all of a sudden you hear him moving his chair up to the front and the teacher asks him what he's doing and he was like I'm not getting in trouble for not sitting in the front two rows. I’m like that’s the level of commitment we need right there.”

The returning senior, Sione Tonga’uiha has witnessed the shift on and off the field since Walden’s arrival. 

“ It’s a big culture shift," Tonga'uiha said. "He (Walden) not only cares about who is on the field but also off the field. He’s not an ordinary coach.”

"I don’t like doing just random things in our program," Walden said. "There’s a method behind all our madness, from the terminology we use, we have a whole intentionality behind what we do.”

One man that’s helped mold Walden to be the man and the coach he is today is his high school coach Phil Young. 

“That guy ended being my ultimate father figure who still is to this day," Walden said. "He was hard on me, he had no problem ripping me but he also had no problem loving me up and showing me what it’s like to be a christian coach off the field. When I met him I knew that this is what I wanted to do, I want to be a football coach.”

The driving force behind every move coach Walden makes is his faith in God. 

"I want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Chirst, without him I'm nothing," Walden said. "This great game saved my life and without him I'm not able to have the family that I have."

On top of becoming a new leader of a division one program, Walden became a father, again. His wife, Callie Walden, gave birth to their second child just days after their move to El Paso.

"Callie is my rock," Walden said. "She’s everything to me. We’ve been together since high school algebra class because I was terrible at math. I’m not too smart but I'm a good recruiter so I had to get the cute little girl to help me out with the math equations there.”

At a glance, El Paso may seem nestled in desert and rocky mountains but for newly installed UTEP head football coach Scotty Walden, there was something unique about El Paso that made him want to stay.

“The people," Walden said. "I always start there when I talk about El Paso. When they see somebody new to El Paso they want you to feel the same love that they have for the city and I think that’s why it’s such a special city.”

Walden ultimately wants to give back by developing a football program that El Paso fans can be proud of. 

“I just want to show people the energy that’s going on out here," Walden said. The people, the passionate fan base we have, they deserve for us to match that passion."

You'll be able to witness Walden's energy firsthand Saturday, April 20th as the Miners hold their spring game at 10a.m. at Sun Bowl Stadium. Spring game tickets are just five dollars.

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Bea Martinez


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