From QB to Congress? Next step for ex-ASU star Walter

As a quarterback for Arizona State and the Oakland Raiders, Andrew Walter faced plenty of pressure and took more than his fair share of hits. Now, he’ll face a new kind of pressure as he ventures into the world of politics.

Walter, a Republican, announced last week that he plans to challenge for a Congressional seat in Arizona’s ninth district in 2014.

The ninth district includes all of Tempe, where Walter starred for the Sun Devils from 2002-04, so he may be able to parlay a bit of his popularity with the locals into his campaign. But what prompted a quarterback-turned-businessman to run for Congress?

“It’s just a sense of duty and responsibility,” Walter said Tuesday. “I’ve never served my country, I’ve never served in the military, and I think now more than ever we need serious leaders that want to offer common-sense solutions and not play politics.”

Specifically, Walter believes the U.S. is in uncharted territory with the economy languishing post-recession, government spending at its highest point ever and the education system failing too many young people.

“It all kind of came to a critical mass for me, and I decided I’m starting a family and there’s really not a lot of time left,” Walter said.

Walter, 31, is getting married this week. While that wasn’t the final push he needed to get into politics, it helped him realize that he wants have an impact on the community he calls home before it’s too late.

But no matter how the race for the ninth district turns out, Walter says he has no interest in being a career politician. He wants to get involved, offer solutions, help create change and get out rather than being “sucked into the vortex of Washington, D.C.”

“When that happens, you get so out of touch with the common person,” Walter said. “That won’t be me.”

Walter also insists he won’t play the political game. He says he’s a concerned citizen before he’s a Republican, and he wants to make his campaign about bipartisan solutions — teamwork, just like on the football field.

As for the sometimes-ugly nature of politics, Walter says he’s prepared to take whatever shots opponents might take. Those at least don’t come with the physical pain of some of the bone-crushing hits hits he took as a player.

“I’ve been told politics is a lot like professional football, but there’s just no referees,” Walter said. “I’ve been skewered on the sports page, and this is two folds above that and probably quite a bit more personal.

“Nothing that can be said about me — no sling and arrows I could suffer from other competitors or candidates or from members of the press — can equal what so many families and workers are facing every day. Their struggle is a hell of a lot more difficult.”

Walter likely will face stiff competition for the Republican candidacy, as the party covets the seat currently held by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. But Walter knows a thing or two about tall tasks. In his first significant action at ASU, Walter led the largest comeback in school history in a win over San Diego State.

It’s Walter’s belief that his leadership from his football days can help him in the political realm. He offered an example from his college career for what kind of leader he wants to be in Washington.

“I remember in 2002, in the Holiday Bowl against Kansas State, I took a shot in the back and broke three vertebrae — and I stayed in the game, finished the game,” Walter said. “The reason I did that was because I was the captain, I was the quarterback and the leader, and if I could stand, you weren’t going to take me out of that game.”

Walter took over as ASU’s starting quarterback four games into the 2002 season and held the job until graduating in 2004. In that time, he broke countless school records, and he is still ASU’s all-time leader in career passing yards and touchdowns.

The Raiders selected Walter in the third round of 2005 NFL Draft, and he appeared in 12 games for the team during the 2006 season, making eight starts, but played in only three games over the next two seasons before being released.

Walter retired from the NFL at 27 years old and returned to ASU to get a master’s of business administration. He later founded — and remains the managing partner of — Andrew Walter Holdings, a business lending firm.

So from quarterback to businessman and soon-to-be husband, Walter has been many things. While his latest venture could land him a job in Washington, Walter insists it won’t come with a new label.

“I’m definitely not a politician,” Walter said. “Even if I liked it, I’ll never accept that distinction.”