VMI’s Walton: “I want to raise revenue, trophies, diplomas...quality men and women.”

The 2007 VMI grad is grateful to be back at the place that helped transform and shape his life.

LEXINGTON, Va. – Faces of leadership in college athletics continue to evolve, with more opportunities for African Americans. At Duke University, there’s Dr. Nina King. Up the road at UVA, Dr. Carla Williams. And now close to home at VMI, in steps 2007 graduate Jamaal Walton.

“It’s about how I can make people better, how I can empower people,” Walton said.

It’s two simple, yet effective objectives Jamaal Walton wants to embody as he steps into leadership as athletic director at VMI. An opportunity not lost on the Virginia Beach native.

“As a black man and VMI alum, I’m proud to be in this seat. I know representation matters and if I can inspire someone in Lexington whether they look like more or don’t look like me, that’s what I’m here to do. I want to create positive change and do it the right way,” Walton said.

The Walton family at Jamaal's graduation in 2007 (Courtesy: Jamaal Walton) ((Courtesy: Jamaal Walton))

Doing things the right way is the ONLY way Walton knows.

“I was an all-conference player—three years under coach Cal McCombs and one year under Jim Reid. I was a co-captain of the team as well. I had a chance to play a lot and we didn’t have a lot of wins at certain points of my career but I just enjoyed the camaraderie,” he said.

Jamaal Walton during his playing days for the VMI football program (Jamaal Walton)

It wasn’t long before this defensive back and biology major found his niche at the intersection of communication and a passion for people.

“And as I went through the process I started to realize, I could effect change,” Walton said. “Coming here as a cadet athlete, this place changed my life.”

A career in athletics administration would ensue, taking Walton across the nation, with stops including Savannah State to Tennessee, College of Charleston and most recently, the University of Washington.

“I’ve been in the rooms with some of the greats, leaders within our space and I’ve picked things up from them as I went because I knew when I had an opportunity to be an athletic director I wanted to bring the full spectrum to the place that I was going to be,” he said.

Now that place is back in Lexington...with his family in tow. The very place where his dreams were started and transformed. A place that gave him a chance to be great—in more ways than one.

“I have been a part of it. I’ve been in barracks—I know the feel, the touch, the smells of what makes this place great. I want people to know outside of Rockbridge County that we’ve got something here. We’ve got something special,” Walton said.

The 39-year-old is ready to help Keydets appreciate their worth...

“Just like when you have a fruit drink or fruit punch, you have all these different flavors. You have to bring all these flavors in in order for things to taste good and I’m excited about it,” he said.

But not only on a field or court.

“I want to find ways to raise revenue, I want to raise trophies, I want to raise diplomas and I want to raise the VMI brand but more importantly, quality men and women,” Walton said.

Walton’s hire comes just a few years after VMI named its first-ever black superintendent in General Cedric T. Wins.

There’s a lot more to this conversation — you can watch the full interview on Around the Way with EJ Friday evening.

About the Author

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.

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