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Tray Walker: Letting His Light Shine


Preached, but more importantly, practiced, it's become a core belief embedded in the Baltimore Ravens.

"As an individual, be who you are," John Harbaugh frequently states. "Let your light shine. But, never put someone in your shadow or detract from making the team better."

Tray Walker was a piece of this belief. Even though it was for a brief time, his teammates can attest.

Maybe it was his megawatt smile, wonderful wit and vibrant energy. Or perhaps it was his deep loyalty, personable nature and tough determination.

Whatever the case, Walker shined.

Bad Break, Best Friends

Julian Wilson was an undrafted Ravens' free agent in 2015, and no player had a worse start than he did.

At the team's May rookie camp, Wilson suffered a season-ending broken leg during the opening day's second practice. It hadn't even been a week, and there was Wilson – stunned and injured in a foreign city, barely knowing a soul.

Wilson isn't sure how he would have endured his brutal Baltimore beginning had someone special not befriended him. That person? Tray Walker.

"It was crazy how quickly we hit it off," Wilson states. "We just clicked after one practice, really."

Out of the goodness of his heart – all while trying to find his own way as an overwhelmed rookie – Walker did everything he could to help Wilson. Whether it was carrying the injured player's backpack or fixing to-go plates of food, Walker was reliable.

"He'd be at the convenience store and would call to check if I wanted anything," Wilson adds. "I didn't really have anyone, so he was basically taking care of me.

"I am actually older than Tray, but he took me in like his little brother. I thanked him every day, but I still don't think he ever knew how much it meant and how much he helped me through that process."

There it was … Tray Walker … Letting his light shine.

Draft Picks Reunite

Breshad Perriman also had a difficult rookie season. Mammoth expectations were placed on the Ravens' top 2015 draft choice, but everything came crumbling down when he sustained a complex knee injury on the first day of training camp. It was a gut-wrenching time for Perriman, who worked tirelessly to return, even as his patience turned to frustration.

But as the weeks of dedicated rehabilitation became months, unfortunately, he was never able to play. Fortunately, however, Perriman had a guiding force who helped him through it all – fellow draft choice Tray Walker.

"I won't lie, he got me through some hard days," Perriman admits. "It was difficult. If he hadn't been there, I would have gone crazy. He was basically the only one – or one of the only ones – who knew everything about my situation. He was the one person I could come to and tell everything about how I was feeling."

The connection shared by Breshad and Tray actually traces to their childhood, even though neither realized it until joining the Ravens.

The players' parents grew up together in South Florida's Liberty City, a rough, underserved area where Tray eventually lived as a child.

"Tray's dad [Tommy Lee Walker] always used to talk about my dad [Brett]," Perriman says.

In fact, Breshad met Tray before their NFL journeys began – but only once when their parents initially introduced them when they were young.

"When we reported to the Ravens, I saw him outside the elevator at our hotel, and it hit me that we knew each other," Perriman says. "It wasn't until we got here that we realized who each other was and how our families were connected."

"We always said, 'Boy, you might be family,' because we actually have distant cousins that are related."

After reuniting in Baltimore, Breshad and Tray became inseparable. Certainly, their personal hardships and family ties bolstered this bond.

"We were always together," Perriman states. "We leaned on each other. Tray was sunny, always positive and could see the good in each situation. He was motivated, hungry and had great energy. He was the person I was closest to on the team."

There it was … Tray Walker … Letting his light shine.


The fourth-round corner played in Baltimore for one year after being drafted out of Texas Southern in 2015.

The DBs Trip**

At the Ravens' training facility, few people spent more time near Tray than Kapron Lewis-Moore. The two were locker neighbors and interacted daily – often seeing each other at their respective bests and worsts.

"There would be a couple times where I had a bad practice, and I would vent to him like, 'Man, I missed a tackle; I messed up on this play,'" Lewis-Moore recalls. "He'd be like, 'Hey, next time do this. You've got tomorrow to get better!'

"He had that positive influence on me."

As the year carried on, the duo started to build a rapport. It was one that eventually led to Lewis-Moore – a defensive lineman – attending an exclusive getaway for Baltimore's defensive backs.

As is customary in the NFL, once the season concludes, members of a team's specific position group will vacation together to unwind. Simply put, it's part of football's rare brotherhood. For this specific "Ravens DBs Trip" – a weekend escape to Las Vegas – the "outsider" Lewis-Moore received an invitation. It came from Tray Walker.

"I'm glad we went on that trip, because we all spent time together and really got to know each other outside of football," states Terrence Brooks, another of Walker's closest friends. "That will be a time I'll always cherish, because that was pretty much the last time I got to hang out with Tray."

As for Walker inviting Lewis-Moore?

"That wasn't anything out of the norm for Tray," Brooks notes. "That's the type of person he was – just very likeable. You could easily be around him, and he'd get along with anybody. 'Kap' came, and he felt right at home with all of us."

There it was … Tray Walker … Letting his light shine.

Oh, That Style

Early in the 2015 season, Walker moseyed into the Ravens' cafeteria. This particular instance stands out because the wide-grinned rookie donned an expressively unique tie-dyed T-shirt featuring a cutout action shot of himself during his playing days at Texas Southern. Undoubtedly, the ensemble drew second (and third) looks from some in the room, but Walker certainly didn't mind.

"The shirt?!" Wilson recalls with a laugh, "Oh, that's Tray – his fun style and personality."

Many Ravens considered Walker among the locker room's most fashionable dressers, someone always aiming for a distinctly choice look that matched his spirited nature.

"If you knew Tray, you knew he was coming here every day with the Jordans, matching hat, matching shirt, matching something," Wilson adds. "That's just Tray. If you didn't know him, you'd think: 'He's too flashy.' But he was going to wear what he wanted to wear and have fun."

"He loved to get dressed up for our meetings, or he would put on his gold chains for the [pre-practice] walk-through," Jimmy Smith chuckles fondly. "That's what we enjoyed laughing about, calling him 'Mr. T.' That's just how he was – fun, stylish."

There it was … Tray Walker … Letting his light shine.

The Meeting Room

The meeting room – it's where players and coaches devote countless hours reviewing video, strategizing and studying. During a normal in-season week, more time is spent here than on the actual practice field. It is a focused learning environment that can be mentally rigorous, impassioned and humbling.

Though just a first-year player, Walker's presence was felt in these meetings, as he displayed his enthusiasm to learn more and to be challenged. "He definitely cared a lot about football," Brooks states.

Even when Walker felt the natural frustration and growing pains to which no young player is immune, he kept pushing.

"As a rookie, you're going through a lot of stuff," Wilson shares. "There are many trials and tribulations. But Tray always kept a smile on his face – always had a positive vibe."

"He was very eager to learn, gain knowledge and soak up what he could to become a professional," Smith adds.

There's another component of the meeting room, one that must not go overlooked. It's also a place of bonding, where during breaks or light-hearted moments, relationships are strengthened through good-natured ribbing and storytelling. For Walker, sometimes that meant simply lightening the mood during a tense situation.

"There are times when a coach gets a little hot, and Tray would say something funny to bring him back down," Brooks recalls. "No one could help but laugh. It grounded us all and reminded us that we're all brothers in this together. That was something that came naturally to Tray. He always had a special fire that everyone could gravitate to; even our coaches could gravitate to it."

"In the room, Tray was everybody's little brother," Smith says. "He was the one who was loved, cracked the jokes and was funny in his own way. He had his personality traits that some people may not have understood, but in our room for sure, everyone understood Tray. He was very much loved in that room."

There it was … Tray Walker … Letting his light shine.

What? How?

Questions – there are many in Baltimore right now.

What is a team to do – especially one as united as the Ravens – when a brother passes away? How does a team respond after such a shocking loss – one infinitely incomparable to any that could occur on a football field?

"I've personally never dealt with this before, never dealt with anybody I'm really close with who has died," Smith shares, noting how, in honor of Tray, he hopes each Ravens defensive back can wear Walker's No. 25 for at least one game in 2016. "I guess it hasn't truly hit me all the way. When I look at a picture of him, it makes me choke up, because I know the kid, and God took him away too fast."

Perhaps there are no answers.

Or, perhaps there are.

"This is new territory for all of us," Brooks concedes. "We're trying to figure out the best way to cope and move on. But, we'll never move on in the sense that we've forgotten Tray. We'll definitely be carrying him with us. I feel like his spirit will always be here, and that's something to work for.

"We will use this as a catalyst to pump us up this year and to remind us just how precious this game, and more importantly, life really is."

Because though he's no longer here in person, just look…

There it is – again … Tray Walker … Letting his light shine.

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