Devon Walker was paralyzed while making a tackle during a Tulane game on Sept. 8, 2012. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 10:48 AM
Over the weekend the Saints did some paperwork.
They signed their top pick, receiver Brandin Cooks.
They signed their second-round pick, cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Both are exciting young players with promising futures. Getting them inked to deals is just part of the process.
Not to be outdone, the Saints signed an undrafted free agent who will never take a snap for the club.
Yet it was perhaps the best move in franchise history.
Last Saturday the Saints surprised Devon Walker, a former safety at Tulane, with a one-day contract.
For the former team captain of the Green Wave it was a dream come true, putting his name to a deal with his favorite team.
“To me, it’s almost like one of my dreams come true,” Walker said on the Saints website. “I’ve been a Saints fan almost since I was walking. Just to be a part of the team and be around the players is more than I could hope for.”
The sad part of the story is that Walker can’t walk anymore.
He was paralyzed two years ago while making a tackle during a game back on Sept. 8, 2012.
It is a play that changed his life and ended his hopes of ever playing in the NFL.
However, the Saints made sure Walker’s dream of getting a pro football contract didn’t come to an end.
On the same day Walker graduated from Tulane, he was also a professional football player.
“It’s a pretty good day for him in the morning getting signed, graduating in the afternoon, so he’s officially (a Saint),” New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said at the time. “We’re going to sign him today to a contract. I’m proud to be up there with him. I’m super-proud of his recovery and the way he’s handled and approached this. I know he and his family are thankful for the support of so many that have helped him through this process.”
Walker, who is in a wheelchair, has made great strides since the injury. He has come a long way since that day he got hurt, which should come as no surprise.
Back in 2009 the odds were against Walker even making the Tulane team. Back then he was a walk-on just trying to make the squad.
The NFL wasn’t thinking much about him.
However, he worked hard and not only earned a scholarship but became the Green Wave’s starting strong safety, becoming not only a team leader but an inspiration to a region that was still getting over Hurricane Katrina.
Walker showed everybody in New Orleans that hard work does pay off.
He did it again after the injury.
Walker could have quit, could have said enough and moved on with his life.
Nobody would have thought lesser of him. He had been through so much.
Yet last Saturday he proved that he was more than just a football player. He proved that you can overcome just about anything.
He did that not by getting a contract from the Saints, but by getting a degree from Tulane.
The Saints contract was to show Walker what he meant to the community.
The degree is something he earned and can help inspire that same community.
Payton called Walker an “inspiration” to the Saints franchise, but he is much more than that.
He is proof of what people can overcome despite the odds. He is proof that you only really lose when you stop fighting.
For that he needed to be honored.
For honoring Walker the Saints need to be applauded.
It was the best free agent move the team has ever made.