Saints surprise DHS grad with NFL contract
Devon Walker has persevered despite spinal injury
|Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert / New Orleans Saints|
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, Saints head coach Sean Payton and Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson pose for a photo after Devon Walker was awarded with a one-day contract by the Saints.
Walker was a former walk-on at Tulane University who transitioned into a starting safety for his senior year in 2012. However, tragedy struck that year when he suffered a spinal cord injury in the second game of the season versus Tulsa.
Now, nearly two years later, Walker is still confined to a wheelchair, but he returned to Tulane last fall to complete his undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology. In fact, he was just getting out of the graduation ceremony held at the Superdome when the Saints surprised him with the contract.
Walker said he had no idea he would be signed to the team.“(My parents) told me we were going to eat at the Saints facility and when I got there the rookie camp had just got finished and Sean Payton and coach CJ (Curtis Johnson) came and told me about it,” he said.
Johnson was Walker’s coach at Tulane.
Although the ceremony is symbolic, Walker said it meant a lot to him.
“It was always dream of mine. Some people have dreams of being an astronaut and only a few get to be like Neil Armstrong. I’ve always dreamed of being a Saint and playing pro football,” he said. “It was really special that they went above and beyond.”
Since the signing, Walker has received national media attention and is being flown out to New York for an appearance on Good Morning America at 8 a.m. on Friday, May 23.
While many college graduates will be going into careers, Walker will be entering a new round of treatment that will include rehabilitation and analysis by neurosurgeons at a Miami clinic followed by stem cell therapy treatments in Panama.
Walker would like to one day fulfill another dream, that of going to medical school, but he said that will be a difficult undertaking if he does not get more movement back. “I have movement in different spots all over all the way down to my toes, but things are not strong enough to fight gravity. Hopefully the rehabilitation center will help,” he said.
As far as his immediate future is concerned, Walker will be entering the non-profit realm.
He has been asked to be a board member for the College Football Assistance Fund that helps college football players who have sustained permanent injuries from the sport.
In addition, Walker is in the process of setting up his own non-profit organization.
“As of right now I am looking into the mission of not helping just college athletes, but also high schoolers with spinal cord injuries with accessibility to products to help them finish their degree or diploma,” he said.
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