The Tennessee Titans finished 7-9 this past season, but veteran tight end Delanie Walker made quite the first impression in Nashville. In December, Walker was honored with the highly-acclaimed Titans’ Community Man of the Year Award over fellow teammates Rob Bironas, Michael Griffin, George Wilson and Moise Fokou.
“I was shocked,” Walker said. “It caught me by surprise because it was my first year and those other guys have been here for a few years.”
Before signing with the Titans last March, Walker was a key player on the San Francisco 49ers’ NFC Championship team (The 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31). Shortly after the post-Super Bowl festivities, Walker was delivered tragic news—Walker’s aunt and uncle, Alice and Brian Young, had both been killed by an alleged drunk driver.
After the incident, Walker’s outlook on life as a professional athlete had quickly changed. “It powered me to make a difference,” Walker said. “It made me open my eyes to try to help end drinking and driving. It made me become a better person to realize this is dangerous to the community and everyone else.”
In response, Walker became a strong supporter of MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “You listen to their stories and how they turned a negative into a positive. It’s good to get it out and tell your story. The way they prevailed from (drinking and driving), it’s incredible and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Shortly after the Titans had signed Walker, the tight end lobbied to the Tennessee state legislation for an ignition-interlocked system in cars for first-time DUI offenders. The bill was signed and passed into Tennessee state law in May.
Walker is not only a strong supporter of MADD, but he also became an integral part of Country Music Association’s “Gifts for All” campaign, an organization which collects holiday gifts for homeless families in Nashville.
“I didn’t know a lot about Nashville and I didn’t know there were a lot of homeless families,” Walker said. “I felt I could lend a hand and I was glad to go in there and help with the toy drive and make sure there wasn’t one kid who was left out during Christmas.”
Walker also told us that the Titans’ franchise does a lot of charitable work in the community through the NFL’s “Play 60” program and the franchise helps deliver his message to prevent drinking and driving through Twitter and Facebook.
Walker won’t be playing on Super Bowl Sunday this year, but he said he will be busy during the first weekend of February. “I have something going on with the Super Bowl,” Walker said. “It’ll be the biggest event because it is the anniversary of my Aunt and Uncle’s death.”
Walker, a former 6th round draft choice out of the University of Central Missouri State, spoke at the 2013 NFL Rookie Symposium. At 6’0”, 248 pounds, Walker may be vastly undersized by today’s NFL standards, but Walker stood out and influenced his rookie peers during symposium weekend.
“I told them this can happen to you,” Walker said. “I used to sit in that room and say to myself this won’t happen to me. My message (to the rookies) was it could happen to you or anybody. I’m a prime example because it happened to me on one of the days I thought was supposed to be the best day of my life, and it ended up being the worst. A lot of people look up to us and when you drink and drive, people see that, so don’t be that person.”
It's his strong will stemming from personal experience that drives him to help the community in any way he can, which earned him the Community Man of the Year Award and may earn him further honors in the months ahead. Check back in with Titans 101 for the second part of Sports Media 101's exclusive interview with Walker when he talks about the upcoming season.
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