Tray Walker never had an easy path to NFL glory. After playing at Miami Northwestern Senior High alongside future star Teddy Bridgewater, his only college offer came from tiny Texas Southern. His raw athletic ability netted him a draft pick with the Baltimore Ravens last year, but his dad died of a heart attack the very next day.
Now Walker faces his biggest challenge of all. He's in critical condition at Ryder Trauma Center this morning after a horrific crash in Liberty City sent his dirt bike careening into an oncoming SUV.
"Tray was like a brother to me. Hearing some news like this hurts my heart," writes Julian Wilson, a fellow cornerback on the Ravens. "I know Tray's a fighter and he's going to pull through."
It's not clear exactly what caused the accident, but police say that Walker, who is 23 years old, was wearing all black and had no lights on his dirt bike as he drove west along NW 75th Street yesterday. At 7:50 p.m., a 2014 Ford Escape heading sound on NW 21st Avenue slammed into him.
The Escape's driver stayed on the scene and cooperated, police say. Walker was rushed to Ryder, where he remains in critical condition.
The tragedy is another sad chapter in a life of dogged perseverance. Walker grew up in Little Haiti and played cornerback on one of Miami Northwestern's most storied teams, where future first-round NFL picks Bridgewater and wide receiver Amari Cooper tore up defenses.
But Walker, who was honorable mention All-Dade as a senior, wasn't heavily recruited like his star teammates.
"I really can't explain that," Walker told the Baltimore Sun last year. "Maybe I didn't have much help. I wasn't recognized by most Division I schools. I was only a buck-seventy-five coming out of high school."
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His only offer came from Texas Southern University, where he blossomed — and grew. By the time he entered the NFL draft last year, he was a 6'2", 200-pound cornerback with blazing 4.42 speed in the 40-yard-dash. The Ravens picked him 136th overall and signed him to a $2.6 million deal.
The very next day, Walker's father, Tommy Lee Walker, died of a heart attack at 54 years old. The younger Walker flew from the draft back to Miami to scatter his father's ashes at sea.
Walker struggled in his rookie year with the Ravens, playing only eight snaps all year. But he was expected to compete for a bigger role in his second season.
Now he's fighting for his life in a Miami trauma center.