When Matt Walker became the head football coach at DePauw University this past June, he knew he was taking over more than a football team.
A former DPU quarterback, Walker knew that he was taking the reins of a program rich with tradition, and there is no greater tradition at DePauw University than the annual Monon Bell game against Wabash College.
The Tigers and the Little Giants will meet for the 113th time overall Saturday and will play for the coveted Monon Bell for the 75th time.
When it came to explaining what the annual encounter means to him, Walker did not downplay the significance of the game at all.
"It's everything," Walker said. "It's such a unique and special opportunity to play your college football career at DePauw or Wabash. One game every year, you are the biggest, most-followed, most intense game in the entire nation for small college football.
"It's the ultimate feeling of representation for your school. You play with such pride because you understand the feeling about this game by the student body, its administration and the alumni."
Walker, a native of Crawfordsville and a second-generation DePauw graduate, said he is especially excited to be on the sidelines in his first Monon Bell game as head coach, to be played at Wabash this year.
"I am obviously excited to coach this game, and what makes it even more special for me is that I am from Crawfordsville where my family still lives," Walker said. "I get to coach my team in front of a lot of people and friends that I have from my hometown."
As a player, Walker was part of the DPU squad in three Monon Bell games, all of which were won by the Tigers.
He also served as an assistant coach for the past six seasons, in which the Little Giants have taken four victories, including last year's meeting.
With that much experience in what is widely renowned as one of the greatest rivalries in college football, Walker has plenty of cherished Monon Bell memories, but he said that there are two in particular that stand out above the rest.
"As a player, in my senior year, we went to Wabash, who was 9-0, and we were heavy underdogs," Walker said. "We scored on our first four possessions to lead 28-0 and finished the game 42-7. I will never forget taking the last snap and holding onto the ball knowing what we had just accomplished."
Walker continued, "As a coach, the 2000 game at Wabash is one I'll never forget. We were down 17-9 with under seven minutes to play and scored three touchdowns in a span of 5:48 to win 27-17."
DePauw, which enters this year's game with the Little Giants with a record of 6-3, last claimed the Monon Bell in the 2004 contest with a 14-7 win.
The first-year Tiger coach said that his team is primed and ready for Saturday's game and focused on bringing the bell back to Blackstock Stadium.
"The team could not be more excited to play this game," Walker said.
"Both teams have had great years, but both of us are out of playoff contention.
"Both teams are completely focused on one another, and we know we are in for a dog-fight."
Kickoff for the 113th meeting between DePauw University and Wabash College is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Wabash.