The paralyzed Tulane University football standout who was surprised after his college graduation by being signed with the New Orleans Saints says he made it through his career-ending football injury by realizing he was an inspiration for others.
"Once I got out of the hospital, I realized the amount of people who were behind me, helping me through my injury and the people who had sustained an injury the same way that I did," Devon Walker said today on " Good Morning America." "Every day I woke up and I said, 'If I don't get up, somebody else might not get up.'"
Walker, a talented safety for Tulane's University's Green Wave, was playing in the second game of his senior season on Sept. 9, 2012, when he collided with a teammate while attempting to make a tackle. Walker injured his C3 and C4 vertebrae and was left paralyzed from the neck down.
The former team captain spent over three months in the hospital rehabilitating from his injury before eventually returning to Tulane to continue his studies.
On Saturday, Walker graduated from Tulane with a degree in cell and molecular biology. And on that day, he got a special graduation gift: the New Orleans Saints signed him.
"It really was unexpected," Walker said today on " Good Morning America." "I thought I was going to eat oysters with my family after graduation but they surprised me with that."
"I didn't know what to think," he said.
Walker was announced as the team's latest free-agent signee and then, shortly afterward, placed on the reserve/retired list by the Saints.
Speaking at a news conference, the team's coach, Sean Peyton, said: "I'm proud to be up here with him, and I'm super proud of his recovery."
Walker's college coach, Curtis Johnson, who came to Tulane from the Saints' coaching staff, says Walker is "tremendous" and joked that Walker has eliminated one of the most important but likely difficult parts of a coaching job: the inspirational pre-game speech.
"He's doing me a big favor," Johnson said today on "GMA." "I never have to write a speech before a game. He does them all."
Walker says that becoming a New Orleans Saint is a dream he has had as a child, and he has the photograph to prove it.
"I have a picture from when I was one with some like Saints uniforms on," Walker said. "When I went back home I found that in my photo album and I thought to myself, 'Man we made it. We finally got it.'"