Devon Walker (USA Today Sports)
Walker certainly fits the bill.
Walker, a native of Destrehan, Louisiana, suffered a severe spinal cord injury last season playing for the Green Wave. Despite being paralyzed from the neck down, Walker has exhibited a courageous attitude, inspiring Tulane and the New Orleans community.
“Winning the Disney Spirit Award gives me a renewed sense of purpose to continue on my path toward recovery and, in doing so, provide inspiration to others to never give up,’’ said Walker in a release. “I have a fantastic support system in my family, friends, teammates, coaches, university staff, and others from around the country who constantly encourage me to keep fighting. Returning to campus and my team this fall has allowed me to regain a sense of normalcy and has given me hope for a full and successful life.”
Walker began his football career at Tulane as a walk-on in 2009, but he eventually earned a scholarship and climbed his way up the depth chart, earning a starting spot at safety and being named team captain in 2012. In the second game of the 2012 season, Walker, while attempting to make a tackle, was injured colliding with a teammate. He injured his C3 and C4 vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed.
Walker returned to the classroom a year later and is close to earning his bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology, He does this while remaining a part of the team by attending practices, meetings and each home football game.
A sticker with Walker’s No. 18 is on each player’s helmet and Walker gives the team, who is currently 6-4, a pregame speech each week. Additionally, a player who exhibits teamwork and dedication is chosen to run on the field before the rest of the team with a No. 18 flag.
“Devon Walker is a special young man and is really a hero to all of us,” Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. “I don’t know if anyone could go through what he has experienced in two or three lifetimes. He is an inspiration to me, my family, our football team and the entire Tulane and New Orleans communities.”
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