Not only did it have a connection, it had a deep connection for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Not only was Walker a teammate of Bridgewater’s at Miami Northwestern High School, they were from the same neighborhood in Liberty City, growing up just a few doors down from one another.
When the shocking news came out Friday, many in the NFL community were stunned. Walker, who had been working out this offseason with former NFL cornerback Jeremy Lincoln, was doing so well in his offseason workouts that he had decided to stay in South Florida an extra week before heading back up to Baltimore to train at the Ravens team facility starting later this month.
That all came to a tragic end Thursday night. Walker was riding a dirt bike with no lights and was wearing dark clothing and no helmet when he was hit by a Ford Escape at 7:50 p.m. at an intersection in northern Miami not far from his family home, according the Miami-Dade Police Department. He was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition and underwent surgery to save his life after sustaining significant head trauma. He was pronounced dead at 5 p.m. Friday at the age of 23.
Walker was no stranger to tragedy. When he was at the Ravens’ rookie minicamp, he told reporters he was dedicating his rookie season to the memory of his father, Tommy Lee Walker, who died of a heart attack in November 2014. Walker relayed the story that, the day after he was drafted, he took part in a ceremony to spread his father’s ashes in the ocean off the Miami coast, commemorating what would have been his father’s 54th birthday.
Words of condolence to the Walker family came flooding in following the tragedy, including from Bridgewater. Teddy took Instagram with photos of Walker from high school and as a Raven and said the shares in the loss that his family and friends are feeling.
“Today we lost more than an athlete, we lost a son, a brother, a teammate, a classmate, a friend and a GREAT person. You proved that something positive can come out of Miami Northwestern and off of 71st Street. You were loved by many in the community and looked upon as a role model. It saddens me today knowing you were just scratching the surface and about to reach your full potential, but I know we serve a Mighty God who sits on high and looks low and he has a plan for us all to prosper. Continue to watch over your family, teammates and loved ones. RIP Tray aka FreshKid. My condolences to the Walker family.”
The sense of mourning going through the Ravens organization is something longtime members of the Vikings family can empathize with. When Korey Stringer died during training camp of the 2001 season, it left a lasting impression on many of his teammates, many of whom had never had to deal with the death of a member of their own peer group.
For those in the Ravens family, they’re going through the same grieving process that the Vikings family did in August 2001 when Stringer succumbed to organ failure that took his life at the age of 27. But, as we have learned after the fact, Walker’s death casts a wide swath, including a childhood friend like Bridgewater who has lost a piece of his childhood in the process.