(WBIR) Former Tulane safety Devon Walker continues to defy the odds.
His football career ended last season when he collided with a Tulane teammate during a game, injuring two of his vertebrae. The injury paralyzed him from the neck down.
Still Walker has refused to let that define him, and the New Orleans Saints took notice. On Saturday, the same day as his college graduation, the Saints announced it had signed Walker to a one-day, NFL contact, welcoming him to their rookie minicamp. Saints coach Sean Payton said his team was inspired by Walker's tenacity to complete what he started.
"He is an outstanding young man, who is not only an inspiration to his coaches and teammates at Tulane, but to all of us. Devon's character, determination, intelligence and work ethic are everything that we look in for a New Orleans Saint when we sign a player," said Payton on the team's official website. "This is the least we can do to recognize Devon and these attributes that we want all our players to have."
After spending three months in the hospital, Walker returned to Tulane to complete his degree in cell and molecular biology. He also returned to the football field sidelines, consistently cheering for his teammates all the way to the New Orleans Bowl last year.
Walker said the Saints' announcement was a big surprise: the former safety thought he was just going to eat oysters with his family. Instead they took him to the Saints' rookie minicamp where he learned he would become part of its team.
"This is one of my dreams come true," Walker said during the Saints' press conference. "I've been a Saint since before I was walking. Just to be part of the team and be around the players is more than I could have hoped for."
Walker played for the Green Wave from 2009-12, according to NewOrleansSaints.com. He joined the team as a walk-on in 2009 and eventually moved to the starting lineup. When he was a senior in 2012, he was named a team captain. While enduring rehabilitation three days a week and completing his studies, Walker spent a lot of time with the team, attending meetings, practices and every game. He also gave a speech to the team before every home game.
In 2013, Disney Sports honored Walker with the Disney Spirit Award, which is given to college football's most inspirational figure.
Contributing: NBC, NewOrleansSaints.com