Deja vu? I have been here before. Has it already been three years? I was serving VCU's The Commonwealth Times as sports page intern, setting up interviews with student athletes, meeting them at Shafer and rushing home to type out the final draft for submission later that evening. I loved every second of it. (Thanks to the inspiration of this tough man I have not looked back since.)
A day after Tray Walker was drafted in the fourth-round, 136th overall, the cornerback would have celebrated his father's 54th birthday with his family. Instead, Tommy Lee Walker's ashes were spread off into the waters of Miami last Sunday. He died of a heart attack last November.
The rookie spoke about his dad during the first day of Ravens' rookie minicamp at the training complex:
This upcoming season, the whole process of right now, I dedicate that to him. That's all he wanted. He just wanted the best for me and prayed to God that I would get this chance, and now I'm here.
Walker's story struck a sharp chord in me. My father will turn 56 this year, and similar to his dad, mine prays to God that someday I would get a shot. Not football, due to a tearing retina (I'm content with the five flag football championships already), but somewhere on a chaplaincy staff, sidelines or in a press box.
Walker, the God-dependent athlete, has a testimony that the city of Baltimore may relate to. I hope he, alongside other Ravens players, pays visits to schools and shares his narrative with all ages -- from young teenagers all the way through college students. Inspiration, like Mr. Andy Pollin gave me three years ago, goes a lonnng way. The rookie cornerback had to nimbly walk a tightrope to get to the NFL. And when I say tippytoe, I mean, Geisha shoe-tiptoe: Texas Southern was the only school to offer Walker a scholarship out of Miami Northwestern High School.
The rookie was projected to be selected in the seventh-round of the 2015 NFL Draft, or as late as a priority free-agent pickup following the draft. General manager Ozzie Newsome, who thinks decades ahead of the average human, drafted Walker in the fourth, laughingly making NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt's prediction, appear as childish as the boy who thinks there's an X-Box One gift-wrapped under the Christmas tree. (According to Newsome, it's actually a bundle of board games.)
The Ravens' brass recently signed Walker to a four-year $2.625 million deal, including a $345,692 signing bonus. He was the first of nine to sign the dotted line. #RapWe could always use another cornerback. Keep the hope alive, Ravens fans! #InOzzieWeTrust