He soon appeared to become a lower-league journeyman, toiling with Chester just four years ago.
The two Premier League clubs where he failed to make it were his first club Blackburn then Sam Allardyce's Bolton.
Changed man: Stoke forward Jonathan Walters
But, on Saturday his career had come full circle, as he scored his first Premier League goal - against Allardyce's Blackburn.
Times have changed dramatically for the Stoke striker, who turned 27 a fortnight ago.
He is a rare example to many lower-league players who have been let go by top clubs in their younger days. There is still a way back even in the cut-throat, multi-million pound world of the Premier League.
Back to basics: Jonathan Walters
Even Allardyce had a huge smile on his face as he tapped Walters on the shoulder after the game and shook the striker's hands.
It is not often you will see the Blackburn boss embracing the opponents' winning goal-scorer so warmly.
But Allardyce knows what an unusual and commendable journey Walters has had.
Walters was prolific at youth level for Blackburn and, in 2001, Allardyce signed the then 17-year-old striker for Bolton.
'At that age, I didn't look after myself properly,' admits Walters.
'I was a young lad, going out too much. Now I am completely the opposite. I am a bit of a boring stay-in. When you are a young lad at clubs, nobody knows what you are doing.'
He admits that, as a cocky teenager, he thought he had already made it.
'You do as a young one really,' says Walters.
'You don't really know what chance you've got until you lose it. I can understand why Sam didn't want me. I was young.'
Allardyce sent him out on loan to lower-league strugglers such as Hull, Crewe and Barnsley. Hull then signed him permanently but even they sent him out on loan to Scunthorpe before Walters fell further, joining Wrexham and Chester.
'You are looking into a bit of an abyss really in the lower divisions,' he explains. 'You have a bad season and you could be out of football.'
Missed out: Allardyce rejected Walters
His career turned around when he was handed at chance at Ipswich in 2007, where he flourished. Then Pulis came in for him this summer.
Walters knows when his attitude began to improve. 'Probably when I started a family. It changes from being selfish to 'everything is for your kids' and your wife. That's my outlook now.
'I've got two kids. I'll have a nice night with the wife at the cinema and then get up early and have a good day with the kids.'
He's at the right place now. 'The mental toughness that you get from the lower leagues sets you up for when you are in games like this. I know what Stoke's all about. My strengths are Stoke's strengths as well.
'Playing in the best league in the world and scoring the winning goal is the most exciting time of my career. You can't pick and choose who you score against. But it was nice to score today.'
Chelsea ready to throw in Turnbull in bid to lure keeper Begovic from StokeStoke 1 Blackburn 0: Punchless Rovers sunk by old boy WaltersSTOKE CITY FC