BOOK REVIEW + 2 $25 Gift Card GIVE AWAY - The Walk-On by Richard Podkowski


Commercial Fiction

Date Published: February 23, 2023

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

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In the twilight of his NFL career as a middle linebacker for the Chicago Storm, Mike “the Steelman” Stalowski masks his physical pain and mental anguish with alcohol and painkillers. The fan favorite has a rebel image and a notorious reputation, and he plays a violent gridiron game fueled by inner rage. 

While estranged from his wife and living in the fishbowl environment of professional sports, he unexpectedly meets the fresh-out-of-college Kim Richardson. She sees through Mike’s star persona to who he really is—a kind guy from the Southeast Side of Chicago who has never forgotten his humble blue-collar roots. The lives of the star-crossed, seemingly mismatched couple collide during a whirlwind romance that culminates in a tragic series of events.

The Walk-On is a timeless tale of love and loss that explores the consequences of personal decisions and the rewards of faith, redemption, and hope.

Early Reviews

“An interesting read where star linebacker Mike Stalowski confronts the inevitable challenges every NFL player faces as they transition to their post-football life. His experiences may seem exaggerated, but they are still very real.”

Gary Fencik, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX Champion


“Despite his NFL fame and bad-boy attitude and antics, I empathized with the humble guy from a blue-collar background fighting painful emotional and physical demons. . .Ultimately, The Walk-On is an incredible story of love and loss, with faith and mentorship fostering hope for the future.”

Bill Rancic, Author of the New York Times bestseller, You’re Hired


“Just like the protagonist’s very fast sports car, The Walk-On will leave you, from the very first paragraph, just a little breathless as you navigate all the sharp turns that come fast and furious at the reader. . .”

Jean Becker, Author of the New York Times bestseller, The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush's Post-Presidency


“The Walk-On is a fascinating story of self-sabotage and redemption. A page-turner!!!!” 

Mary Pat Kelly, Bestselling author of Galway Bay, Of Irish Blood, and Irish Above All

I received an advance review copy for free and am leaving this review voluntarily. Thank you Richard Podkowski and RABT Books Tours and PR. I'm excited to be a part of this tour.

In The Walk-On we meet middle linebacker for the Chicago Storm, Mike “the steelman” Stalowski as his glory days are coming to an end. Masking his physical pain and emotional anguish with alcohol and painkiller, he’s a fan favorite with a rebel image and a notorious reputation, he plays the game fueled by his inner rage.

Estranged from his wife and living in the fishbowl that is professional sports, he unexpectedly meets fresh-out-of-college Kim Richardson she sees through his ego and start persona to who he really is – a kind guy from the southside of Chicago who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

This book weaves an intriguing tale of love and loss, the consequences of decisions we make, and rewards faith, hope, and redemption. This is my first book by this author and won’t be my last! I loved the writing style; it is easy to follow. The cast of characters are as complicated as they are eclectic. They also compliment one another nicely. I enjoyed the dynamic between Mike and Kim. They’re both likeable as they explore the emotional peaks and valley’s of a new relationship.

The plot is interesting, the backdrop of being a professional athlete gave depth to the story and gave the reader an insider’s perspective to what that life is like. The descriptions are well written, I felt myself completely immersed in this story from start to finish.

I look forward to reading more from this author and recommend this book to all sports fiction fans! 

Overall Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟



  About the Author

Richard Podkowski, a native of Chicago’s South Side, began writing fiction while studying criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago.

As a United States Secret Service special agent, Richard protected U.S. presidents and foreign dignitaries and investigated major domestic and international financial crimes. After retiring from the Secret Service in 2003 as a supervisory special agent, he became a management member of a Fortune 100 company's global security group. For the last several years, Richard has been a private sector strategic security consultant.

Inspired by professional athletes who lived in a fishbowl under constant media scrutiny and made life-altering mistakes, Richard wrote The Walk-On. Other projects include a holiday rom-com manuscript and a crime story. In his free time, Richard enjoys riding his road bike, working out, and making Christmas ornaments. He currently resides with his family in Los Angeles.


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