The New Orleans Saints announced Saturday that they have signed former Tulane University safety Devon Walker.
A four-year letterman at Tulane, Walker played for the Green Wave from 2009-12. He joined the team as a walk-on in 2009 and had moved into the starting lineup and was named a team captain as a senior in 2012. Opening the second game of his senior campaign on Sept. 8 at Tulsa, Walker suffered a career-ending spinal injury when he collided with a teammate while attempting to make a tackle just seconds before halftime. Walker injured his C3 and C4 vertebrae, which left him paralyzed from the neck down and spent over three months in the hospital before returning home in December 2012.
Despite the adversity and extensive rehabilitation that Walker has faced, he has embraced all of these challenges directly and has been an inspiration to others. In the fall of 2013, Walker returned to Tulane's Uptown campus and to the classroom to continue his studies in cell and molecular biology. He participated in graduation ceremonies prior to signing with the Saints on Saturday.
Walker also returned to the football field sideline as a constant supporter of his teammates in 2013 as Tulane enjoyed their finest season in more than a decade and played in the New Orleans Bowl. While taking part in rehabilitation three days a week and completing his studies, Walker spent extensive time with the team, attending meetings, practices and all Tulane football games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, giving a pregame speech to the team prior to each home game.
Walker has been recognized nationally for his inspirational attitude. In 2013, he received the Disney Spirit Award, an honor given annually by Disney Sports to college football's most inspirational figure. He was honored by the New Orleans Fellowship Foundation and the organization renamed one of their annual awards the "Devon Walker Courage Award." He also was named the 2012 Brandon Burlsworth Courage Award winner and earned a spot on the Burlsworth Trophy watchlist, which recognizes former walk-ons who provide solid contributions to their team.
"When Devon got hurt, his football career was just starting to take off after three years of hard work," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "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. 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."
"I would like to congratulate Devon on his graduation and for all his accomplishments," Tulane Coach Curtis Johnson said. "I am very proud of him and I am very happy for his family. This is a first-class move by a first-class organization. The Saints have been very supportive of Devon and I would like to thank Mr. (Tom) Benson, Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton for allowing Devon to be a part of an NFL team. I believe it once again demonstrates the organization's commitment to the New Orleans community and to one of its own."