Tracy Walker received a life-changing phone call Friday night.
The person on the other end of the call was Bob Quinn, the general manager from the Detriot Lions who dialed Walker to let the Brunswick native know the Lions were taking him with the 82nd overall pick in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
“He was excited. Everyone in the Lions organization was excited to get me,” Walker said Sunday morning in a phone interview. “He just said welcome to the (Lions) Den, and I said thank you and that I definitely appreciated the opportunity.”
Walker, a 6-foot-1, 206-pound safety who played basketball and football during his prep career at Brunswick High, will report to the Lions for the first time this coming week to go through a rookie mini-camp with the rest of the team’s draft picks and the players they have picked up as free agents since the draft ended on Saturday.
On Sunday, Walker was still in Brunswick enjoying time with his family. Other than getting numerous phone calls and text messages since late Friday night, Walker has spent a quiet weekend with his family.
“I’ve just enjoyed time with family and my fiance. It’s a great moment just to enjoy with them and share this experience with them,” he said.
The Walker family celebration began soon after Walker got the call from the Lions. It continued into Saturday with a family get-together at Skipper’s Fish Camp in Darien, where fellow Brunswick High graduate Andy Morris is general manager. Morris and Walker’s dad are friends, according to Walker.
“We ate and had a good time with each other,” Walker said. “It was just a time of celebration, just trying to embrace the moment.”
When he takes the field with the Lions, Walker will be reunited with fellow former Brunswick High standout Darius Slay. The Lions took Slay in the second round of the 2013 draft and this past season Slay was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time after leading the NFL with eight interceptions.
Slay and Walker are actually second cousins and the two talked several times during the draft process.
“There were times I didn’t know what I was getting into, and he was definitely someone who could give me advice on what to expect,” Walker said. “Really, he just kept me motivated and told me to do what I can do, control what I can control. He knew I was a great enough player to succeed in the NFL.”
NFL rookies drafted after the first round are limited to signing four-year deals. Walker can expect to sign a contract in the neighborhood of $3.4 million according to published reports using information from previous drafts.
Walker did not play football until his junior year at Brunswick, deciding to give the game a try at the urging of several people including then-Brunswick head coach Victor Floyd.
Walker, already a standout basketball player, blossomed as a cornerback for the Pirates and scholarship offers started rolling in. He ultimately signed with Louisiana-Lafayette after considering Wisconsin and several other schools.
He switched to safety with the Rajun Cajuns and became a leader on their defense, finishing his career with 276 total tackles which is third all-time at Louisiana for a defensive back.
This past season, Walker finished with 97 tackles and two interceptions and perhaps helped his draft stock with his performances in his final two games when he had 14 tackles against Georgia Southern and 15 against Appalachian State.
Walker was named to the Sun Belt Conference third-team after the season. He really started moving up draft boards with his performance at the NFL Combine in February. There, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and posted impressive numbers in several other drills.
Still, some Lions beat reporters had no clue who Walker was when the Lions announced him as their third-round pick. He was projected by many draft analysts to go no earlier than the fifth round.
Walker hinted before the draft that he might go earlier than that, but he also had convinced himself a team wouldn’t be calling him until Saturday when the fourth through seventh rounds were held.
“A lot of teams liked me, but I knew it was up in the air with everyone as far as who drafted me,” Walker said. “I’m just blessed the Lions chose me and it’s time to go to work in Detroit.”
His selection forced the Detroit media to scramble for information on Walker late Friday with some of them admitting they immediately did a Google search in advance of the conference call the Lions quickly set up with him.
Walker’s selection in the third round wasn’t a total surprise, though, to some of the most notable draft gurus in the business including ESPN veteran analyst Mel Kiper.
“He’s a fast-riser,” Kiper said live on television Friday night. “A month leading up to the draft, his name had the arrow pointing up.
“Watch out for Tracy Walker. He went a little higher than some people would think. What caught my eye – against Texas A&M early in the year – he had some really fantastic plays. He has really good ball skills and can deliver some big-time hits. He looked like a really impressive athlete against A&M. During that game, that was the attention-getter, and during the process, I think he really skyrocketed up the draft board.”
Mike Mayock from the NFL Network didn’t think the Lions reached when they made Walker a third-round choice.
“I like that pick,” he said right after it was announced. “A lot of the league had him down in the fifth or sixth round. I think he’s a free safety with good movement skills. Oily hips. He’s willing to tackle. Makes plays on the football and has really good size.”
Walker has a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has some flexibility when it comes to his position in the secondary as he can play both safety spots and does have a background as a corner. He even played linebacker briefly for Louisiana.
Walker will get a chance to compete for a starting position with the Lions.
“When you are evaluating players that might not be at an SEC school or a Big Ten school, you try to watch them against their best competition and those games were really important to us, as well as the East-West All-Star Game, which we go down there every year to look at players,” Quinn said in a Friday press conference in Detroit.
“He was one of the best players in that game that entire week when I was there personally.”
Quinn also specifically noted Walker’s showing against the Aggies this past season when he had seven solo tackles, an assist, an interception and two pass breakups.
Quinn was worried that another team might snag Walker before the Lions could get to him.
“We were excited about the pick because there were a few teams in front of us that we were a little nervous about. There were two teams I think the 10 or 12 picks above us that had visited with him on a 30-visit,” he said.
Walker had pre-draft visits with several teams in addition to the Lions including Houston, New Orleans, Tennessee and Dallas which had the pick just before the Lions.
The Cowboys chose Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup likely because they were looking to bolster their receiving corps after releasing veteran Dez Bryant recently.
“It’s definitely a heckuva situation I’m walking into with the Lions,” Walker said.
And it is just really crazy that he will be lining up in the same secondary with Slay, his cousin and also a fellow former Brunswick High Pirate.
“He called me Friday night,” Walker said of Slay. “He said I told ya you could be in Detroit. He said it’s crazy and I know your phone is getting blown up, so just call me when you can this week. He just said let’s get it. I’ve got another Brunswick native here with me. Welcome to the Den.”
And, welcome to the NFL, Tracy Walker!