Team USA decathlete Jackson Walker splits his time between training and competing — and practicing law as a litigation attorney. The Latter-day Saint hopes to return to Chile for the 2023 Pan American Games to compete in the country where he served a mission. (Photos courtesy of Jackson Walker)
Jackson Walker: Team USA decathlete, attorney, husband — and Olympic-class personal time manager
Former BYU All-American/returned missionary finds creative ways to balance his schedules as a lawyer, family man and pro athlete.
By Jason Swensen
1 June 2023
Imagine the time, energy and focus required of an elite track & field athlete intent on establishing his or her bona fides on the national and world scene.
Now imagine the time, energy and focus required of a young lawyer intent on, well, establishing his or her bona fides in the hyper-demanding legal community.
Jackson Walker need not imagine either scenario — it’s his daily life. The returned missionary and former Brigham Young University All-American is a nationally ranked decathlete and a rising litigation attorney.
But, like anyone else, Walker only has 24 hours to check off the boxes on his daily task list. And he is more than a professional athlete and a lawyer. He is also a Latter-day Saint and a husband.
(His wife and fellow athlete, Avery Calton Walker, knows all about wearing multiple hats. She played soccer and ran track at BYU).
It is a busy, busy life — but Walker has no complaints.
“It's been a rewarding experience,” he told Church Ball Magazine.
Despite his challenging training demands, Walker is grateful to have an athletic outlet from his legal eagle duties. The Utah-based attorney added he is also fortunate to work for a firm (he’s an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati) that is supportive and accommodating of his athletic pursuits.
“When I made my first Team USA last year, my firm sent out a company-wide mailer that included pictures of me competing for Team USA,” he said. “All of my coworkers have been really supportive.”
In return, Walker prioritizes the time he needs to fulfill his professional duties at the law firm.
Walker’s daily schedule is, by his own description, “less conventional” than either a typical attorney or a typical elite track athlete.
“Sometimes I will have, say, a pole vault practice in the middle of the afternoon because that's when the coach is available,” he explained. “So, as an attorney, I will do what I need to do with our East Coast office throughout the morning. Then I will do a track workout. And then I’ll come back re-energized and ready for legal work in the late afternoon and into the evening.”
Time focused on his legal work doubles as Walker’s recovery period between workouts.
Being a professional athlete/attorney is also mentally demanding. “So you’ve got to be able to compartmentalize, which is something I’ve learned very well as a decathlete where you have to compartmentalize each event.”
The decathlon, of course, is the storied track and field event that rewards competitors for being good at a variety of athletic feats. The competition’s 10 events include foot races of various distances, jumps, the pole vault and a variety of throwing events.
While competing in a decathlon and representing a corporate client in a court of law might seem like diametrically opposed activities, Walker identifies crossover skills and characteristics between his dual pursuits.
Well-honed mentalization techniques, he said, can optimize one’s “performance” on both the athletic field and in the courtroom.
Additionally, both athletes and attorneys typically enjoy success following hard work, effective time management and attending to the details. Both disciplines, added Walker, “are an art and a science.”
From BYU walk-on to NCAA All-American
A decade ago, few would have imagined Jackson Walker one day wearing the Team USA jersey.
A multi-sport high school athlete from Idaho Falls, Idaho, Walker walked on to BYU’s track team in 2013. He appreciated the meritocracy of the decathlon. There was no room for politics, he said. A decathlete’s success is determined by a stop clock, a finish line and a tape measure.
A former walk-on at Brigham Young University, Jackson Walker claimed All-American honors despite battling injuries while competing for the Cougars. (BYU Photo)
Despite his humble beginnings as a walk-on, Walker became an All-American decathlete at BYU. But the demands of the multi-event sport exacted a painful physical toll. He endured multiple injuries during the latter half of his collegiate career.
When he finished competing for the Cougars “my body seemed done.”
So in 2017, Walker stepped away from the decathlon to begin law school — focusing entirely on learning civil procedure, contract law, torts, case research and other foundational legal subjects.
Because of the injuries he battled during his junior and senior years at BYU, Walker felt like he had left college competition with “unfinished business." The law student often wondered about his full potential in the decathlon if fully healthy.
Then during the summer between his 2L and 3L years, Walker was invited to participate in the decathlon competition of a Bay Area track meet. Despite the two-year layoff from the sport, he recorded encouraging results.
“After resting my body for a couple of years, I decided to get back in shape and try to give the decathlon another go,” he said. “After competing again, I’ve realized that I still loved doing this.”
Returning to elite competition level was not easy. But with time and patience, Walker recaptured his form, even turning some former weaknesses into strengths.
“My throws have become significantly better as I’ve gotten older and improved my techniques,” he said.
An athlete’s hopeful return to his mission country
Being an attorney and a professional track and field athlete makes Walker something of a fleet-footed legal outlier.
“I think I may be the fastest attorney in the country,” he said, laughing.
Looking ahead, Walker’s primary athletic goal is to make the Team USA roster for the Pan American Games later this year (Oct. 20 - Nov. 5). Beyond the thrill of representing his country, the Latter-day Saint cites a deeply personal reason for wanting to compete in that storied continental sporting event:
“This year’s Pan American Games are in Santiago, Chile — where I served my mission,” said Walker, an alum of the Chile Santiago East Mission. “I’d love to be able to go back to Santiago as an athlete. There are so many faces that I would love to see again.
“That would be a culminating event for me.”
Attorney/professional athlete Jackson Walker is married to a fellow athlete — Avery Calton Walker, who competed in soccer and track and field at Brigham Young University. (Photo courtesy of Jackson Walker)
After the Pan American Games, he plans to take his athletic career “one step at a time.” He’s still recovering from a foot injury but hopes to be in competition form for the U.S. Track and Field Championships in July.
“And then from there, I can hopefully get my qualifying mark for the U.S. Olympic Trials for Paris 2024.”
Walker, of course, taps into plenty of natural athletic ability to be able compete at an elite level in his sport. But the former walk-on knows that raw talent is rarely enough.
A man of faith, Walker believes that his success has come primarily from his belief that hopes, dreams and goals can be realized.
“And then it’s all about going out, betting on yourself and believing in yourself enough to go after your dreams.”