Former Miami Hurricanes RB Mark Walton gets second chance with Dolphins

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 29: Mark Walton
DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 29: Mark Walton /

Facing an NFL suspension if he gets signed by another team after being waived by the Cincinnati Bengals, former Miami Hurricanes running back Mark Walton got a tryout in rookie minicamp with the Miami Dolphins this weekend.

Mark Walton had 14 carries for 34 yards and five receptions for another 41 yards as a rookie for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018. Cincinnati cut the former Miami Hurricanes running back after three arrests in three months. Walton left the Miami Hurricanes football team after he missed over half of his junior season in 2017.

Walton finished his Miami career with a year of eligibility remaining rushing for 2,006 yards, adding 624 receiving yards and 28 total touchdowns. He was on pace to set the Miami Hurricanes record for both rushing and total touchdowns before suffering the season-ending injury in 2017.

Walton was arrested in January on felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon, marijuana possession and reckless driving. Police found 14 grams of marijuana, a nine-millimeter carbine rifle and several fully loaded clips in Walton’s BMW. Walton ran from the police after getting tased.

Walton is getting a second chance to play in the NFL with the Dolphins at their rookie mini-camp this weekend. Walton’s former Miami Hurricanes teammates quarterback Malik Rosier and wide receiver Darrell Langham are also in the Dolphins rookie mini-camp. Walton faces a suspension in 2019 if he is signed by any team.

When the Bengals released Walton in April new Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said it’s important for Walton to get a new start somewhere else. It was the Bengals way of respectfully releasing Walton because of his indiscretions.

"“It’s important for our team to get off to a fresh start as we begin the 2019 season. For that reason, we felt it best if we move forward without Mark Walton. We hope his situation gets resolved, but we don’t want to take anything away from the good work that so many other players have already begun to demonstrate.”"

Walton was expendable because he was a backup with the Bengals. Cincinnati drafted Walton in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Cincinnati’s leading rusher the last two seasons, Joe Mixon was charged with misdemeanor assault in college at Oklahoma after breaking a woman’s jaw.

Important players tend to get far more leeway than those who are on a roster’s fringe. That has changed in the past few years. The Carolina Panthers cut defensive end and the Kansas City Chiefs let running back Karim Hunt go after they committed violent acts. Ray Rice never returned to the NFL after domestic violence.

Walton is thankful for the opportunity with the Dolphins. He seems to realize this could be his last chance. Walton spoke with the Sun Sentinel’s Safid Deen and the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero about being in minicamp with the Dolphins and what happened in the offseason.

"“I’m just thankful to be here,’ I’m trying to leave an impression on the coaches. I’m trying to leave a lasting mark on them.  I can’t really say too much about the other stuff [off] the field. But I know what I got to do while I’m here. That’s all I can talk about right now.Coach Flores, from the few days I’ve been here, I see he is a competitive guy and he wants to win. I can just look at it the way he brought me in, and that shows a first-year head coach, he’s bringing me in with the rough offseason I’ve had. It shows a lot about him and his character.I’m trying to do all I can do to show the team what I’m about. There’s a lot of things that’s happened this offseason but right now my focus is on the task and right now that’s the Miami Dolphins and that’s all I can talk about,” Walton said."

Walton has been through a lot. His father died when he was seven. In February 2018 his daughter was born prematurely and then his mother died after suffering a stroke. He continues to persevere. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has been impressed by what he has seen out of Walton thus far.

"“We want to definitely take a look at him and see if he was a fit for us on the field and off the field. I think he’s done a good job really in the one day that he’s been here. We’ll see how it goes. “It was discussed. Obviously [general manager] Chris [Grier], myself, [vice president] Brandon [Shore], our staff.Definitely it’s something we discussed. But again, it’s a tryout. That’s kind of part of the process, getting to know him and getting to see him both on and off the field. I’d say, I think, you know, I think people deserve a second chance.I believe that. I think that’s the case and I don’t want to judge people on one incident, two incidents. It’s a case-by-case situation for a player and people in general. That’s kind of my stance.”"

Walton faces an uphill battle to make the Dolphins roster. He should have a good chance to get to training camp with them or someone else. Miami currently has Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, rookie Myles Gaskin and fullback Chandler Cox on the depth chart at running back. Getting a chance with the Dolphins is critical for Walton.

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The arrests are going to haunt Walton at least until there is a resolution. Players like him who are on the fringe of a roster seldom get as many chances as more established or talented players. Showing his leadership skills and being a model citizen from now on is the only way for him to have an NFL Career.