The New Orleans Saints Rookie mini-camp is underway in Metairie, Louisiana, and the team just signed Devon Walker to an honorary contract. Walker, a former safety at Tulane University, played football until a bad hit left him paralyzed on September 8, 2012.
According to the New Orleans Saints' website, the Tulane team captain's football career was cut short, but that did not stop the young man from supporting former teammates. In 2013, Walker attended rehabilitation and class while supporting his team from the sidelines. Motivational speeches were given at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome before every game, along with attending team meetings and practices. While the player could no longer hit on the field, he still managed sure to show his support.
His inspirational efforts throughout 2013 earned Walker accolades from Disney Sports and the New Orleans Fellowship Foundation. Every year, Disney Sports names the most inspirational figure in college football by handing out the Disney Spirit Award. And the New Orleans Fellowship Foundation organizers renamed one of their annual awards the "Devon Walker Courage Award" after witnessing the young man's community impact.
"Devon’s character, determination, intelligence and work ethic are everything that we look for in a New Orleans Saint when we sign a player. This is the least we can do to recognize Devon and these attributes that we want all of our players to have."
Tulane Coach Curtis Johnson agrees with Payton's assessment. “I would like to congratulate Devon on his graduation and for all his accomplishments." Walker graduated this week with a degree in cell and microbiology. Adversity did not slow the commitment to finish his education down in the least.
Johnson also points out that the contract "demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the New Orleans community and to one of its own.” The coach adamantly states the action to be a "first-class move by a first-class organization."
Even more exciting for the player is the fact he's been a Saints' fan since childhood. "I've been a Saints fan almost since I was walking as a child" and signing the contract fulfills a dream. "Just to be a part of the team and be around the players is more than I could hope for," Walker told the Associated Press.
Listening to the opinions of his former and current coaches, it's easy to see how his dedication to the sport, teammates, and community inspires others to do better and be better.
Coach Payton says it best: "Despite the devastating injury he suffered, Devon refuses to let that define him. He is an outstanding young man, who is not only an inspiration to his coaches and teammates at Tulane, but to all of us."