The journey of Tracy Walker from small-town Brunswick, Georgia, to the NFL is a story of persistence, resilience, and perseverance. This city of less than 17,000 people has produced three Lions defensive backs in recent years, including Walker, who attended Brunswick High School alongside Darius Slay and Justin Coleman. While Brunswick may not be known for producing professional athletes, it has recently become a hub of NFL talent. Walker, who suffered a season-ending achilles tear in 2022, is expected to be back in time for the start of the 2023 season. The rehab process can be a daunting challenge, but Walker is using the lessons of his past to fuel his desire to return stronger than ever.
— Tracy Walker #21 (@TracyWalkerIII) January 24, 2023
Brunswick, Georgia: A Hub for Detroit Lions Talent
Football is immensely popular in the southern state of Georgia, with near-unanimous support for the Georgia Bulldogs. In the professional ranks, though, Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars vie for the hearts of Georgia residents. However, the Lions are slowly making their mark on the city’s sports consciousness as native sons, Walker, Slay, and Coleman, blossomed together. During their time in Detroit, the three acted like brothers, and the locker room followed suit. Their brotherhood created a family atmosphere, which built camaraderie and a competitive spirit. Although Slay and Coleman have moved on to new teams, their bond remains unbreakable, strengthening them as veterans. Walker has kept the determination that propelled the trio to the pros, and his confidence and leadership have been evident to everyone around him since his college.
Walker’s Growth as a Ragin’ Cajun
Walker played college football at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he redshirted as a freshman in 2013. He quickly moved into the starting lineup in the following season and was seventh in total tackles for the Ragin’ Cajuns as a third-year sophomore in 2014. He led the team in interceptions in his last two years and had a team-leading 97 tackles in 12 games in his final season.
During his time at Louisiana-Lafayette, Walker’s growth on and off the field was steady. According to associate head coach and tight ends coach at Mississippi State, Hudspeth, Walker’s potential to become a leader in the Lions secondary was evident during his five seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudspeth praised Walker, saying, “He’s a guy that studies the game now. He’ll know the game plan. He wants to know the game plan. That part he enjoys. He’ll be the quarterback of the secondary.” This showcases Walker’s commitment to the game and his leadership qualities, which have made him an essential part of the Lions’ defense.
Lions Targeted Walker Earlier Than Planned in the NFL Draft
The Detroit Lions’ general manager, Bob Quinn, recognized Walker’s potential and targeted him earlier than most people expected in the NFL draft. Even Walker himself thought he’d be a fifth-round pick, but the Lions saw his athleticism, versatility, and leadership and decided to make him a third-round pick. Quinn praised Walker’s versatility, stating that he saw him as someone who could play the deep part of the field, cover man-to-man, and contribute on special teams.
Walker’s tenacity and leadership have made him a crucial component of the Lions’ defense. During the 2021 season, he played in all 16 games, starting 14 of them, and recorded 86 tackles, two interceptions, and one sack. He has emerged as a leader in the Lions’ secondary, and his versatility has allowed him to play multiple positions on the field. Walker’s dedication to the game has not gone unnoticed, and his teammates and coaches have praised his work ethic and leadership qualities.
Loss of cousin and high school teammate, Ahmaud Arbery
Off the field, Walker has had to deal with personal tragedies. To this day, he is still grappling with the tragic loss of his second cousin, Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in broad daylight in Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020. Arbery and Walker were teammates at Brunswick High School, with Arbery a year older than Walker. Arbery’s strength and humor made him a loved teammate, and the two shared a bond beyond the field. They played basketball together, and Walker remembers spending hours after school playing video games. Arbery was always encouraging Walker to try new things, and he eventually got him to play “Call of Duty: Zombies,” which became one of their favorite games.
After Tracy Walker left for college football at Louisiana-Lafayette and then the NFL, the two remained close, catching up whenever Walker returned to Brunswick. During their last meeting in February 2020, Arbery told Walker how proud he was of him and encouraged him to keep working hard even after becoming a starting safety. Walker has honored Arbery’s memory by wearing his high school number, No. 21, writing his initials on his cleats, and wearing his T-shirts under his jersey during games.
Tracy Walker: Pride of the Lions, 2023
Despite the challenges that he has faced both on and off the field, Walker remains determined to improve and be the best player that he can be. Walker’s growth on and off the field has made him a role model for young players, and his dedication to the game has earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches. As he prepares for the 2023 season, Walker is determined to come back stronger than ever and to lead the Lions to success. He has overcome numerous challenges and has emerged as a leader in the Lions’ secondary. Tracy Walker is the pride of the Lions, and his story is a testament to the power of perseverance and dedication.
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Featured Image Syndication: Detroit Free Press