In an outpouring of emotion, the Baltimore Ravens helped lay to rest one of their own Saturday afternoon, also celebrating the life of a young man who had endeared himself to many.
Their beloved Tray Walker, known for his vibrant personality, fun-loving attitude and determination to succeed, was honored by hundreds of people at a funeral service in his hometown of Miami, Fla.
Approximately 45 members of the Ravens organization – teammates, coaches and front office staff – joined Walker's family and friends at the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church.
Among those in attendance were General Manager/Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh, who side-by-side led every member of the Ravens' procession into the church, with each person stopping at Walker's casket to pay respect.
Included among Ravens players – many who flew in from all over the country – were Kamar Aiken, Javorius Allen, Terrence Brooks, Marlon Brown, Matt Elam, Crockett Gillmore, Lawrence Guy, Timmy Jernigan, Anthony Levine Sr., Kapron Lewis-Moore, Breshad Perriman, Jimmy Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Darren Waller and Terrance West.
Former Ravens teammates Asa Jackson and Brynden Trawick were also present, as was Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who played prep football with Walker at Miami's Northwestern High School.
One of nine people to eulogize Walker, Coach Harbaugh spoke warmly about the 23-year-old who passed away after sustaining injuries in a motorbike accident on March 18. In his heartfelt remarks, Harbaugh highlighted Walker's beaming grin, dedication to family and competitive drive.
"A year ago, we had a pre-draft meeting, and we brought Tray in to find out what he was all about before we drafted him. He sat in my office, right across the table, looking me in the eye. The first thing I noticed was that smile – that big Tray Walker smile," Harbaugh recalled, drawing bursts of joy and applause from churchgoers.
"I said, 'Tray, what's the most important thing, what's your No. 1 motivation?' And he said, 'I want to take care of my mom. I love her, and I appreciate everything she has done for me.'"
Harbaugh also shared a story about the first time Walker displayed his tough, courageous and resilient mindset – all traits the Ravens covet.
The telling moment occurred in an offseason practice during Organized Team Activities when Smith Sr. prepared to run a route in one-on-one drills. As the veteran settled at the line, the rookie Walker stepped up in front of him without hesitation, primed to battle the future Hall of Famer.
"Tray gets his hands on Steve, a pretty decent amount," Harbaugh recounted. "Well, Steve didn't appreciate that early in camp, and he told Tray about it. He verbally got after him a little bit. But, Tray didn't flinch or didn't back down.
"In the next drill, Steve stepped up again. And who stepped up in front of him? Tray Walker!!!" Harbaugh boomed, eliciting more prideful cheers from the crowd.
Though Smith Sr. got the best of Walker in their second go-around – catching a pass and gaining yards – it was then that many coaches and players recognized the type of character Walker embodied.
"After that, Steve saw something in him," Harbaugh stated, as Smith Sr. nodded his head in agreement from across the room. "I think he saw heart and toughness, fearlessness and love for the game."
On an emotionally-charged afternoon – one filled with a mixture of heartbreak and happiness – Harbaugh concluded how he only knew best:
"Tray Walker, we love you and are going to miss you."