Football’s fraternity of defensive backs lost a young member on March 18 when Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tray Walker, just 23 years old and coming off his rookie season in the NFL, died from injuries he suffered in a dirt bike accident in his native Florida.
Walker grew up in Miami and played football at Northwestern High School, a nationally-recognized powerhouse that has produced the likes of Buccaneers LB Lavonte David, retired NFL receiver Brett Perriman — father of Walker’s NFL teammate Breshad Perriman — and former Dolphins OL Vernon Carey.
Walker played defensive back, receiver and punter at Northwestern. His high school teammates included Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater and Raiders WR Amari Cooper.
The only college to offer Walker a scholarship was Texas Southern, whose most famous football alum is Hall of Fame DE Michael Strahan.
Walker developed into an all-conference defensive back for the Tigers, and despite not being invited to the NFL Draft scouting combine after his senior year, he was impressive enough in individual workouts to get selected by the Ravens with the final pick of the fourth round in the 2015 NFL Draft.
As a rookie, Walker appeared in eight games for the Ravens, recording two tackles. He primarily contributed on special teams.
Baltimore was ravaged by injuries all over the roster last season, and the secondary was not immune. The unit is going to have a different look in 2016 — marked most notably by the free-agency signing of All-Pro safety Eric Weddle — and Walker had been working to become part of the regular rotation of DBs.
“He had a vision of what he wanted to be as a player, and after last season he left our building determined that in 2016 he would be a household name in Baltimore,” Ravens defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt told the Baltimore Sun. “He had so much potential and was on his way to being a great NFL player.”