Derek Walker graduated from Illinois in 2009 after starting three years at defensive end. He has bounced around since then. He describes his quest for a pro football future.
"I ended up in Washington undrafted. Ended up in Seattle's training camp, made the roster there and stayed there pretty much the whole year. So that was good.
"I got released after the second to last game because of some receiver injury or something. San Francisco picked me up, so I was at San Francisco the rest of the season.
"I then went to San Francisco's training camp. I was cut from training camp, so played with the USFL in Columbus pretty much the whole season. So that was a little different. I kind of had to switch gears, but I still got to play, which was the bottom line.
"When the season was over, I had an opportunity to come back to Seattle, which was good. It was obviously a different coaching staff with Pete Carroll, but I like Pete. He saw something in me.
"That worked out, so I've stayed with them and enjoyed the playoff run that we had. It was a good experience; I'd never been there. It was really exciting. I was injured and was on IR the last four weeks of the season, but the experience was still fun, and it was good being back.
"(To summarize) I've had ups and downs. My first year was up, my second year was kind of down, but I'm back on track. I got to play with Seattle."
Walker is nearing full health.
"This year, I'm trying to get back healthy and get back on the field again. That's my biggest focus right now. I'm back to working out and running again."
The NFL is in lockout mode, so Walker has returned to his roots at Illinois and Strength & Conditioning Coach Lou Hernandez.
"With this whole situation, I'm back in Champaign working out with Lou and the weight room here. I'm doing a job on the side so I can have some money through this whole ordeal. I'm staying in shape and everything, so it's good."
Walker is trying to take the work stoppage in stride.
"Obviously, we're going through a situation right now which is kind of an unknown situation for me. I've got to be optimistic about it."
He admits to having adjustment problems with pro ball but has begun to figure it out.
"There's a big difference. Not really as far as intensity. It's pretty intense, but it's a different perspective. The talent is good, so it comes down to how hard you work. Everyone's busting their butts and everything. So it's pretty crazy.
"It takes awhile to get adjusted, but your buds help you get the hang of it. So you figure it out pretty quick.
"In college you may have a couple guys that are really good. But in the pros everyone is really good. There's not much talent separation, so it comes down to who is mentally into it, studies more and takes the extra time to put the work in.
"Mentally, it's a lot more than college. And a lot more taking care of your body. So it comes down to who's gonna push to go the extra mile to be in position to help the team and help themselves."
Most of the first two years, he was on his team's 53 man roster. He could travel with the team, but he couldn't dress except his second stint in Seattle. Walker hopes to see more extensive action this fall.
"That's the plan, so hopefully it works out. We'll see how this off season goes and see what happens in training camp."