Brian Cleary '98 was a player for Walton’s championship Colonials, then a coach on his staff, and finally a friend.
By Brian Cleary ‘98
Sometimes we look back at dates and we don’t realize how they impact an individual’s life. July 27, 1993, was the date Robert Morris named Joe Walton to start the Robert Morris football program from scratch. He leaned on his professional contacts and friends for guidance. He took on young coaches eager to learn from him to start this program and young men looking to continue their football career at the collegiate level. Since day one, Coach Walton treated all his players like professionals in terms of his expectations of each player from practices to games to the offseason.
Success followed Coach Walton from the NFL to Robert Morris. It was exciting to have TV cameras at our practice, the interviews and having highlights of our games on ESPN. And as a player you at times miss what is being taught to you to help better yourself as an individual.
Coach Walton welcomed everyone within his program and helped mold us into the men we are today. His door was always open, from watching film with him to talking about where you might fit within the team, to school and things outside of football. For many of us, Coach Walton was more than just a coach. He was a leader, a mentor, a collogue, and a friend.
Since his passing, many people have asked me what I’ll miss most about Coach Walton. There is no right answer but for me, I’ll miss running off the field after a touchdown and getting that look from Coach Walton that we did a good job. Talking strategy together as coaches on the sideline and him having the belief in me to voice my opinion during some critical moments in Robert Morris football history. The hugs in the hallway at Joe Walton stadium, where we would get a chance to simply catch up.
Thank you to the Walton family for sharing Coach with us. His impact on all his players will go on as we raise our families. For those who continue into coaching, he will always be present in our lives.
Brian Cleary is the color analyst for the Robert Morris Colonials football broadcasts. He was a four-year starter on the offensive line from 1994-97 under head coach Joe Walton and a member of back-to-back NCAA Mid-Major National Championship teams his junior and senior years and later was an assistant coach on Walton’s staff.
RMU will hold a memorial program for Joe Walton at Joe Walton Stadium after the home opener Saturday, Sept. 25, against Howard. The event will take place on the field and be streamed live on the RMU Athletics YouTube channel. A memorial service and reception will be held on Sunday, Sept. 26, at 2 p.m. at Riverview United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Walton's honor can be made to the Joe Walton Endowed Scholarship.