Consider the New Orleans Saints a fan of Devon Walker. The former Tulane safety, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a collision with a teammate during the 2012 season, has signed an honorary contract with the Sean Peyton lead Saints.
Walker's career-ending spinal injury to the C3 and C4 vertebrae was suffered in the second game of the regular season against Tulsa back in 2012. But it never stopped him from becoming the Green Wave's inspirational leader shortly thereafter. Walker dreamed of signing with an NFL team while he was healthy and thanks to the The New Orleans Saints, that dream has now been accomplished.
"I'm proud to be up here with him, and I'm super proud of his recovery and the way he's handled this and the way he's approached this," Saints coach Sean Payton said, via ESPN. "Obviously he's been an inspiration to our region, to our community, New Orleans, the Tulane family, and it's carried over to us on the Saints."
The New Orleans Saints surprised Walker by signing him to an official contract Saturday just hours before Tulane gradation ceremonies, where Walker was to receive a degree in cell and molecular biology. Walker, who uses a ventilator to help him breathe, said he thought he was being treated by the Saints to a batch of famed oysters. Instead he was given an official contract:
"I thought I was on my way to eat some oysters," Walker said. "They tricked me." Devon, a native of nearby Destrehan, Louisiana, couldn't have been happier with the deception.
"To me, this is almost like one of my dreams come true," Walker said, "I've been a Saint since before I was walking. Just to be a part of this team, just to be around the players is more than I could have hoped."
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) May 17, 2014
Coach Curtis Johnson, who took over as the Tulane Green Wave head coach in 2011, talked about the leadership skills Walker displayed following the injury. He also expressed his emotions toward Devon.
"I didn't have to do any pre-game speeches at home because he did them all," Johnson said. "And he policed the locker room. He policed those guys. He was around all the time. This kid deserves it all. He's very inspirational. Man, I love the kid."
The New Orleans Saints open up rookie mini-camp along with every other team in the league. The Saints are looking to unseat Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks, who beat the Denver Broncos in this past year's Super Bowl.
And now, with Devon Walker an official member of the team, the New Orleans Saints have another leader to help them do it.
[Image Via The New Orleans Saints Web Site]