We do not know what will happen tomorrow! ...Life is like a mist. You can see it for a while, and then it goes away.
--St. James the Just
What people frequently mentioned about him was the word, "potential." People loved his potential.
Travis Victor "Tray" Walker was a 23 year old, 6-2, 190 lb. Cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens who was entering his second season as a pro.
Tray Walker was a brother and a son.
Tray Walker was an underdog and a burgeoning role model.
Tray Walker was a hope for many.
Born in Miami, Florida, on August 5th, 1992, Walker grew up like many Dade County youngsters do: in a family of moderate means, heavily involved in sports and neighborhood culture. He eventually enrolled at the storied Miami Northwestern High School, home of a plethora of NFL alums, like former San Diego WR Tony Martin, former Jets LB Marvin Jones, current Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater (they were teammates), and most interesting to Ravens fans, speedster Bret Perriman, father of current Raven Breshad Perriman, who clearly had a close friendship with Walker.
Here is where the story becomes less stenographic and more inspiring.
Tray Walker was not recruited out of High School, except for by one school. The reason is unclear, but it could not have been because of his play. He was honorable mention All-Dade County as a Senior. He practiced against all-world Alabama recruit, Amari Cooper as well as Bridgewater, a very sought after QB recruit. He played against current Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman. The one school that reached out to him was Texas Southern University, an historically black college.
This oversight became the first motivational hurdle for Tray.
He arrived on campus in 2011 to find out that TSU had multiple football violations and was under NCAA probation. This was another speedbump for him to overcome, and he did in his time there, amassing 159 tackles, 9 interceptions, and 29 pass breakups over his four years. His contributions were immediate and consistent. He was known as the school's shutdown corner as a Senior and made 2nd team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference.
In November of that final year, his father died of a heart attack. It would be the first of two tragic losses of loved ones to come in the span of a year. Tray used that happenstance to fuel his drive to make the NFL, remembering that his dad prayed for him to play on Sundays.
Instead of being stopped by this loss, he was pushed forward.
After he finished his football eligibility, he did not get an invite to the NFL combine. Another hurdle, another opportunity.
He attended the NFL Super Regional Combine, workout opportunities based on geography for athletes seeking a chance in the league, and impressed with stats like a 4.42 40 and a 10'7" long jump.
Happy EasterPosted by Tray Walker on Sunday, April 5, 2015
This was good enough to get him noticed and the visits poured in right before draft time. After having seen limits and having been overlooked, Tray allowed for his demeanor to be affected to the positive for these crucial interviews, and the Ravens noticed. GM Ozzie Newsome commented on how humble Tray was.
Tray was one of the most humble persons we brought in for a pre-draft visit. That was striking.
In the 4th Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens drafted Tray. Amidst competition. It was a victory for him, having battled through so much adversity to make it to that point. Having to fight for a spot on the roster was old hat-type challenge to Tray. He worked hard, stayed focused, and remained humble flashing with fierce tackles in all preseason games, with a high of 5 at Philadelphia.
Tray made the Ravens roster for the 2015 season.
Yet, his journey was not over, his goals not achieved. He wanted to fulfill this potential that people spoke of. He wanted to finally earn the recognition he merited for years by making a name for himself on the highest level, by coming through for his teammates in any and every situation on the field. He saw action in 8 games throughout the season, filling his role as a rookie, doing the reps on special teams.
In December, the second of the aforementioned losses occurred.
Jamar Small, former TSU Quarterback whom Tray identified as his best friend, died of a gunshot wound on the previous day to the above post. Tray added him to the docket of people in his heart that he would represent on the football field.
Tray went into the offseason disappointed in the outcome, disappointed in his contribution, but fired up to make it better. After having fun with some Baltimore snow, he made his way back to South Florida to train with a former NFL cornerback.
The workouts were going well, the time with family was going well. Tray was dreaming big and working towards achieving.
Mere days before returning to Baltimore, Trey hit the final speedbump of his life.
While he had been able to traverse the previous ones with sheer determination and unwillingness to quit, along with God-given talent, this one would not be so amenable.
What cannot be snuffed out is the way Tray lived. The way he never gave up and the way he bulldozed life's obstacles.
He only got offered one scholarship out of High School.
He got a scholarship with little visible support from his High School.
He earned recognition from a college tainted with NCAA sanctions.
He overcame the death of his father.
He got NFL scouting attention despite not being invited to the Combine.
He got drafted into the NFL.
He made the 53-man roster of the Baltimore Ravens.
He contributed in his first year.
He overcame the death of his best friend.
He endured the blizzard of 2016, something new for a Miami kid.
He set his sights on higher goals, confirmed by just about everyone who knew him.
Tray Walker lived the life of a champion.
As the Ravens go forward, his drive and his unwavering positive gumption will not be forgotten.
Let this be a reminder to us all, not only to cherish every day of life, but to live it to the fullest.
Statement from HC John Harbaugh on Tray Walker. pic.twitter.com/Wu9UztJFdd— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) March 19, 2016