Devon Walker graduating from Tulane

Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 16, 2014

By Monique Roth

DESTREHAN — “It’s another check off my bucket list.”

These are the words of Devon Walker, who is graduating today from Tulane University with a bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology. While he realizes it’s a huge accomplishment, he said he’s not done defying the odds just yet.

It’s been a little less than two years since the Tulane safety, in his senior year, attempted a tackle during the first half of the Green Wave’s game against Tulsa. After his head hit the ball carrier and a teammate crossing his path, Walker was lying motionless on the turf. He had broken his neck and severed part of his spinal cord.

Walker stopped breathing for a short time before being taken to the hospital for emergency surgery to stabilize his neck. The injuries rendered him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, and he’s been undergoing physical therapy since.

“All odds were faced against me, and I overcame a big hurdle,” Walker said this week of not only returning to school, but also graduating.

Walker, who played high school football for Destrehan High School, said he “never really had a doubt” about going back to school after his injuries. He returned to Tulane for the fall 2013 semester after using the spring 2013 semester to establish his routine after returning to live at his parent’s home in Destrehan.

“I haven’t looked back since,” Walker said.

Walker said Tulane has helped him with accommodations to fulfill all requirements for school, and his next move is to earn a master’s degree, from Tulane if possible. After that accomplishment, Walker said he has his eyes set on medical school.

“I was blessed to have a second chance,” Walker said with a smile. “I might as well make it count.”

Life has undoubtedly changed for Walker. He is dependent on someone at all times of the day and night and he experiences nerve pains that can be excruciating. He said some aspects of life are hard, but his friends and family help to keep him positive.

Especially helpful has been Jacob Davis, Walker’s roommate when he lived at Tulane. Davis, also a cell and molecular biology major, graduated in 2013 from the undergraduate program and graduated this month with his master’s degree in the field. Walker explained Davis has been a huge help, with the duo attending many classes together.

“To my Tulane family, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Walker said. “I also want to thank my friends for not treating me any differently because of my injury.”

Walker said the Green Wave staff, coaches and students all make him proud to be a Tulane alumnus.

“I’m thrilled he’s been able to fulfill this dream,” Inez Walker, Devon’s mother, said. “I’m so proud of him because he could have easily given up.”

Walker said he is encouraged by recent strides in medicine and technology that will one day hopefully enable him to walk again.

His interest and knowledge in scientific areas have been a “blessing in disguise” because with it, he has a better understanding of doctor’s visits and medical journal articles related to his injury. His interest in science and his injury led him to write his undergraduate thesis on stem cells and other technologies used to improve functions for paralyzed patients.

This summer, Walker will travel to Miami to be evaluated by doctors who will determine whether he is a good candidate for any surgeries or medical trials.

From Miami, Walker will head to Panama for approximately five weeks, where he will participate in various stem-cell research trials and studies.

Walker said the summer trips and work involved will be grueling, but he is hopeful for any advances that could be made to his condition.

The first thing Walker said he will do when he can walk again is to take his two nieces to the park. It will be another check off his bucket list.