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Eisenberg: The Memory Of Young Tray Walker Will Endure For Years


Tray Walker passed away Friday after getting into an accident while riding his dirt bike in Miami the night before. The bike featured a decal with Walker's football uniform number on it. 

That's not the text of an old man's death. That's the death of a young person, proud of his accomplishments and rightfully so -- a death so unspeakably sad that it's hard to summon the words to express the right sentiments.

A teenager might die in those circumstances, or someone not much older, like Walker, 23, who was really just getting going in life.

I have a son who is just a year older, much like Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, who has two sons and said Friday night in a statement that he "can't imagine how much (Walker's) family is suffering."

Indeed. Just 23. Just getting going.

"Tray had a hard shell, but once you broke through that, you found a person who was learning how to become a man and was so eager to be a great person and professional. I am heartbroken for his family," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said in a statement Friday night.

Yes, Walker was all grown up now, a professional athlete who had been given a wonderful opportunity in Baltimore. But really, the football connection is irrelevant at such a moment. This was a person with a long life ahead, and the tragedy is he's not going to get to live it.

Walker had been dealt a tough hand, raised in challenging circumstances, but he survived and endured, and was on his way up. The Ravens turned him into a wonderful longshot tale when they picked him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Ignored by major college scouts coming out of high school, Walker had played his college ball at little Texas Southern, far from the bright lights. But the Ravens loved his size and range and potential, and suddenly, wow, he was an NFL cornerback.

He didn't play much as a rookie in 2015, but he practiced hard, worked at learning to become a pro, and I keep thinking about the whispered assessments I heard. Walker was raw. Green. Yes, lean and strong and full of promise but … young. In other words, just getting started.

"He had a vision of what he wanted to be as a player, and after last season he left our building determined that in 2016 he would be a household name in Baltimore," Ravens Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt said in a statement Friday night. "He had so much potential and was on his way to being a great NFL player. He will be missed and will never be forgotten."

His passing is the saddest of franchise firsts for the Ravens, the death of a player on the active roster. Other teams have experienced it. There's no handbook for what to do, for how to cope. I have no doubt the organization will find a way to keep his memory alive.

It certainly provides perspective, gives context to the kind of football news that usually dominates our conversation here in Ravenstown. The team is busily juggling its salary cap, adding and subtracting players, trying to bounce back from a losing season. But really that's just fun-time stuff, a weightless entertainment compared to a life ending, a bright candle of promise being snuffed out.

This much is certain: Walker will be in the thoughts of the Ravens for many years. He was here and now he's gone, leaving memories that won't fade quickly, and shouldn't.

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