“I ended up breaking it up, and he was mad,” Walker said.
It was the first play in what became a regular back-and-forth between the two in 2021 when the pair were teammates at Louisville.
“We would talk trash to each other, for sure. But it was different,” Walker said. “Like always competitive plays.”
Saturday, that practice trash talk moves to the game field when their current teams face off as Walker’s OU squad plays at Smith and Cincinnati (11 a.m., Fox).
It’s not just Smith who Walker is familiar with.
When Walker decided to go to Louisville out of Douglas County (Georgia) High, he committed in large part due to then-Cardinals head coach Scott Satterfield and defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Bryan Brown.
Satterfield is now the Bearcats’ head coach while Brown is Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator.
“I kind of just treat it like every other week — the biggest game of the year,” Walker said. “Of course me and the coaches have a mutual relationship and stuff like that, so that’s gonna be pretty interesting.
“Honestly I think they might throw a couple targets here and there at me just to check me and stuff like that.”
Walker is embracing the opportunity, not only to face off against his former coaches and teammates but all around with the Sooners.
After playing sparingly last season — seeing the field for 65 snaps across six games — Walker has found a place in the Sooners’ secondary rotation so far this year.
He’s already played almost twice the amount of plays he played all last season, and has 11 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup through three games.
“No. 1 is his health,” Sooners defensive coordinator Ted Roof said of the reason for Walker’s drastically increased production. “He’s stayed healthy and certainly gained more experience and more reps. He’s been thrown into the fire now. He’s a guy that has done a good job and is trending in that direction.
“Excited about him and happy for him and happy for us. Expect him to continue to go that way.”
Walker arrived with a toe injury suffered in high school, and was limited during his spring at Louisville, putting him behind the curve.
But when he was cleared, he got thrown immediately into the fire by Satterfield and Brown.
“Honestly, they were giving me that opportunity to dominate,” Walker said. “As soon as I came in there they gave me the opportunity. … Once I got right, once I got healthy they gave me every opportunity to work.
“Of course they may see things that I may not see, but they were just kind of preparing me for where I’m at right now.”
That opportunity started with that practice rep against Smith, and the battle between the two became a daily occurrence in practice.
“It was always fun,” Walker said.
As Walker has grown into a crucial piece in the Sooners’ defense, Smith has become a key piece for the Bearcats offensively.
Smith is Cincinnati’s second-leading receiver with 10 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
“Quick guy, you know,” Walker said of Smith. “He also throws the ball too. That’s something that I …. Yeah, you gotta watch for that.”
The biggest lesson Walker took from his season under Satterfield and Brown at Louisville?
“You’re not ready yet until you’re ready yet,” Walker said. “I say that because I felt like I was kind of ready, but once I looked back on it … I was pretty raw when it came to understanding the details of schemes, understanding when to do this or when to do that, or when to use this technique and stuff like that. I feel like I didn’t learn that.”
He might not have been ready back in 2021, but two years later, the lessons he learned then are benefitting the Sooners.
“It’s kind of coming in a complete circle now,” Walker said. “It’s looking real good.”
OU vs. Cincinnati
Kickoff: 11 a.m. Saturday at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio (FOX)
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football vs Cincinnati gives Kani Walker a reunion with old coaches