Tyrunn Walker wants name to stick with Lions

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker didn’t become a household name during his three seasons with the Saints. Even teammates didn’t refer to him by his name.

Everyone called him Clyde.

Saints defensive line coach Bill Johnson, described as a “country fella” by Walker, couldn’t pronounce Walker’s first name, so at one point during the offseason his rookie year, the coach decided to call him Clyde.

And the name stuck.

“I was an undrafted rookie,” he said. “I don’t care what you call me as long as you pay me.”

Looking back, Walker admitted the name irked him, and he’s not pleased Lions receiver Lance Moore and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who were with the Saints in Walker’s first two years, still call him Clyde.

But as a starting defensive tackle, Walker will have a chance to make people remember his name this season. And if he performs well, he could receive a big payday after signing a one-year deal.

“Opportunities in this league are limited, and he’s in a great position,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s been a hard worker. He’s been a guy that has gotten after it, and I don’t think just the flashing dollar signs are going to change the way he approaches the game.”

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Walker made the Saints roster in 2012 after being undrafted out of Tulsa, but didn’t appear in a game as a rookie. In 2013, he played in seven games as a knee injury limited him.

Last year, Walker finally made his mark, playing 16 games with 19 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. When the Saints chose not to tender him as a restricted free agent, the Lions were among several teams targeting him.

Now, Walker takes over the right defensive tackle spot held by Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley last year.

Moore likes ‘Clyde’

Moore, however, still plans on calling Walker by his nickname Clyde, despite being on a Lions team where nearly everyone calls Walker by some variation of his name — T, T-Walk or Tyrunn.

“I’m always going to call him Clyde,” Moore said as Walker walked toward him.

“No you ain’t,” Walker said.

“Yeah, I am,” Moore said. “My mama calls you Clyde; I’m going to call you Clyde.”

“My mama doesn’t call me Clyde,” Walker said.

“My mama calls you Clyde,” Moore said.

“Oh, for real?” Walker said.

“Yeah, she’s like, ‘What’s up, Clyde?’ ” Moore said. “If we’re out in public somewhere, it’s going to be hard for me to call him T-Walk or T because I know him as Clyde.

“Those are good memories. You can’t forget where you came from.”

Then, wide receiver Corey Fuller asked Walker how he earned the nickname, forcing him to tell the story again.

Regardless of what he calls him, Moore hopes Walker performs well enough to earn a long-term deal.

“I think he’s a guy that grinded from the undrafted status to being a guy that signs a contract somewhere and establishes himself as a starter,” Moore said. “He’s always been able to play. It’s just a matter of getting on the field on a consistent basis and being able to do that.”

Austin has faith

Besides most of his teammates calling him by his birth name, Walker has other reasons to like Detroit.

As he watched the defensive linemen play cornhole in the locker room, he noted how tight-knit the group is.

He said all the players are simply striving to win, and even though that was the case in New Orleans, the Saints produced a winning season once during his three years there.

Van Noy's quick recovery could give Lions a boost

Walker didn’t immediately take his place in the Lions starting lineup, and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said the lineman dealt with a minor injury early during the offseason. But, with Caraun Reid dealing with an ankle injury the past few weeks and Walker impressing during exhibitions (four tackles, one-half sack, forced fumble), he’ll start Week 1 against the Chargers.

“When you see him and you have a chance to watch him work and watch how much he’s improved from the offseason to now, you get excited,” Austin said. “I’m excited for him to go out and play because I think he’ll play well this year.”

Walker said he doesn’t believe he has much to prove because if he plays his game, that’ll take care of itself. And, being a starter isn’t much different because he knows the Lions will rotate players, although he won’t move to different spots as much as he did in the 3-4 Saints defense.

“You look at him wherever he’s been, whether he’s starting or not, he was a contributor,” Caldwell said. “He played in a lot of different positions for New Orleans in particular. But for us, he’s an important part of what we do.”