Walker back, probable for Purdue game

Tania Ganguli

On his first day back at practice from a short hospital stay, Northwestern football coach Randy Walker ran practice from a golf cart.

“This is the most disturbing thing — riding out there in a golf cart,” Walker said Tuesday after practice.

Evanston Hospital released the coach early Wednesday afternoon, and he went back to work at 1:30 p.m. He met with his team an hour later.

“I said, ‘Guys, I’ve been way too much of a distraction,'” Walker said.

The coach woke up with chest pains Monday morning. He said the pain got worse around 11 a.m., and he checked into Evanston Hospital shortly afterward.

Assistant head coach and defensive backs coach Jerry Brown ran practice Tuesday in Walker’s absence, and there was talk of Walker coaching from the press box during Saturday’s game if he was unable to patrol the sidelines.

Walker said he expects to coach Saturday’s Homecoming game as long as his condition continues to improve. He will meet with doctors again on Friday but said he was “pretty confident” he would be back on the sidelines this weekend.

“Game day’s the easiest day of the week,” Walker said. “Coming out here was the tough one. Game days are easy. You just play chess.

“I’m not cleared, I’m probable.”

Walker was diagnosed on Tuesday with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. The condition usually stems from a viral infection, but doctors didn’t immediately know the exact cause of Walker’s illness.

As Walker explained after practice, doctors said antibodies Walker’s body produced to fight a previous infection attacked his heart instead, causing his condition.

Even while Walker was in the hospital, he did not stop thinking about the No. 17 Boilermakers, whom the Wildcats will face Saturday morning. He was on the phone with coaches Tuesday afternoon during their meetings.

“Purdue hadn’t left my mind,” he said. “I trust my staff, and part of me was preparing for the event that I wouldn’t be here.”

Still, health concerns were the first thing on his mind. The coach said he started paying more attention to weight and diet a few years ago, but that didn’t help this condition.

“When you turn 50, you start thinking differently,” Walker said. “I want to see my grandkids. When they tell you your heart has a problem, you take that very seriously.”

Timmy the tackler

He isn’t the loudest member of the Northwestern defense, but linebacker Tim McGarigle has made a lot of noise around the nation this year.

As of last weekend’s games, the Chicago native leads the nation in solo tackles with 7.86 per game and is ninth in total tackles with 11.43 per game.

McGarigle started the season as an outside linebacker and moved inside for the Ohio State game. He had 11 solo tackles and two assists in that game.

The linebacker has notched at least 10 tackles in every Big Ten game except the contest against Minnesota.

Last season McGarigle had 82 solo tackles and 58 assisted tackles in 12 games. This season, with at least five games left to play, McGarigle has 61 solo tackles and 19 assisted tackles.

“Tim is the heart of our defense,” defensive coordinator Greg Colby said. “He doesn’t say much, but you look at him and he’s the epitome of what you want in a defensive player.”

Reach Tania Ganguli at [email protected]