The departure of Cal Poly Football head coach Tim Walsh leaves with it a legacy that has impacted student-athletes for over a decade. During his 11 years as head coach, Walsh preached the importance of developing his players as both students and athletes. Several of those student-athletes felt Walsh had achieved his goal of helping them grow as people and competitors at Cal Poly.
“My goals are to continue to recruit student-athletes whose goals are to be the best they can be, both in class and on the field, and become quality young men,” Walsh said when he was hired back in 2009. “This is an opportunity to build a great program and develop a great relationship between the campus and the community at large.”
Junior linebacker Matt Shotwell is one of three brothers to play under Walsh for Cal Poly Football. According to Shotwell, Walsh played a significant role in his decision to follow his brothers’ footsteps and attend Cal Poly.
“I’ve known coach Walsh since I was nine years old … he’s been a big part of my life,” Shotwell said.
Redshirt sophomore and standout fullback Duy Tran-Sampson said Walsh played a significant role in his recruitment as well. Walsh even showed up to Tran-Sampson’s high school during the recruitment process.
“That was cool [because] usually it’s the running back coach or something,” Tran-Sampson said.
Under Walsh, Shotwell worked his way to the No. 1 spot on the 2019 preseason depth chart for inside linebackers at Cal Poly. Shotwell recorded 89 total tackles and added two interceptions in his final season. In Tran-Sampson’s first season seeing significant playing time in Walsh’s triple-option offense, the sophomore ran for 1,037 yards — the third most in the Big Sky Conference.
“He would always act the same on gamedays, which calmed us all down,” Shotwell said. “It really helped my maturity as a player.”
During his time at Cal Poly, Walsh notably secured the 2011 Great West Conference title, the 2012 Big Sky Conference title and a pair of NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths. Walsh retired as the second-winningest coach in Big Sky Conference history with a Cal Poly record of 59-66 and an overall record of 176-148.
Nick Dzubnar, who played under Walsh at Cal Poly from 2011-2014, now plays as a NFL linebacker for the Los Angeles Chargers. Dzubnar said he views Walsh as a tremendous leader who helped him in his journey to the pros.
To this day, Dzubnar recalls a key message Walsh instilled in him during his time at Cal Poly.
“Walsh basically told me, ‘Who cares about individual stuff? When we are winning, the only thing it should be is fun,’” Dzubnar said. “So I think I make it a point, even today in the NFL, to make sure I’m having the most fun out there with my teammates because these are memories that will last a lifetime.”
And despite spending most of their time on the football field, student-athletes also recalled memories about Tim Walsh the person, not just the coach.
“He was always the first one to make fun of himself or laugh at his famous tendencies,” Dzubnar said. “Anyone who played for him knows that he loves diet pepsi.”
Senior wide receiver Quentin Harrison summarized his sentiment for Walsh in a simple manner.
“I just have a lot of respect for him as a man,” Harrison said. “He would always respect us in return.”