Late Ravens cornerback Tray Walker remembered as driven, focused and 'making the right moves'

Those close to late Ravens cornerback Tray Walker remember him as driven to succeed.

Tray Walker had a clear and definitive plan. He told his godmother recently that he anticipated being a starting cornerback for the Ravens during the 2016 season.

He had been working the past couple of months with former NFL cornerback Jeremy Lincoln, and Walker was so pleased with his progress that he decided to stay in South Florida for one more week. Walker was due to arrive in Baltimore as early as Monday to start training regularly at the Ravens' facility.

"We were talking about the Pro Bowl. That's how focused he was," said Dionne Pollock, Walker's godmother. "I was preparing myself to go to all the games and to go to Hawaii. That's how much motivation that he and I had."

A day after Walker's death, those close to him grieved the loss of an individual with great promise and renewed purpose. Walker died Friday afternoon at Jackson Memorial Hospital less than 24 hours after his motorbike collided with an SUV at an intersection in northern Miami not far from where he grew up. He was 23.

"Right now, we're holding up as well as possible," Pollock said. "Reality will come into play Wednesday or Thursday. Right now, we're walking around with a little bit of shock. You were talking to someone earlier in the day and then later that night, you just go, 'Wow.' He and I were supposed to go over some things Thursday night. He was going to be ordering me his jersey."

Lincoln, who played eight seasons in the NFL, most recently in 2000, sat down with his wife Friday night after returning from the hospital, and reviewed tape of Walker's last workout. He had started working with the young cornerback following the end of the Ravens' 2015 season.

After playing only eight games as a rookie fourth-round draft pick last season, Walker wanted to get stronger and faster this offseason. Lincoln was also working with him on film study and being more professional and accountable. Walker's agent, Ron Butler, spoke to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome last week and told him that the organization was getting a much-improved player.

"We really got to know him and understand who he is, understand where he's at, understand the dynamic of his family situation growing up," Lincoln said Saturday. "He's a very good kid coming from a tough background, and trying to provide for his family. He was really striving to make that jump."

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Walker's former high school teammate, were among the NFL figures to take to social media to pay tribute to Walker.

The NFL Players Association started its meetings with a moment of silence. Several high-ranking Ravens officials spent part of the day in Miami to show support for Walker's family. A few more of them could come by Sunday with the annual league meetings taking place in nearby Boca Raton, Fla.

In statements released by the team Friday night, Ravens executives, coaches and players remembered Walker's smile, style and sense of humor.

"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," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said.

The day after the Ravens' 2015 season ended, Walker stood in front of his locker and acknowledged some frustration that he didn't contribute more in his rookie season. The jump from small-school Texas Southern to the NFL proved even more challenging than he expected. Everything moved so much quicker and the season was so much longer.

"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. "He had so much potential and was on his way to being a great NFL player."

Butler said that Walker was "making the right moves." He recently rented a house for his mother. He hired a financial planner and started talking about ways he could give back to Texas Southern. He also committed to working with Lincoln, who spoke with Walker for nearly an hour Thursday morning, outlining the next day's workout.

"He was actually going to leave on Monday for Baltimore," Butler said. "Truth be told, Ozzie wanted him to come down last week, but he wanted to get one more week of training in down here. We had everything mapped out. I said to Ozzie, 'Listen, you're going to be happy with Tray when he gets back.'"

Butler said that he wasn't aware that Walker rode around on a dirt bike. According to Miami-Dade police, Walker's bike didn't have headlights and he was wearing dark clothing when he collided with an SUV just before 8 p.m. Thursday night. Butler said Walker wasn't wearing a helmet. The accident is still under investigation.

"It's definitely heartbreaking," Butler said. "This young man was a good guy. He wanted to do right by people."

Walker graduated from Miami Northwestern High and made it out of the tough Liberty City neighborhood. He got just one scholarship offer, but he embraced the opportunity and graduated from Texans Southern. Walker wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2015, but he showed enough in individual workouts to be a fourth-round pick.

He then dedicated his rookie season to the memory of his father, Tommy Lee Walker, who died of a heart attack in November 2014. He was 53. His father's ashes were spread off the waters of Miami the day after Walker was drafted by the Ravens.

"I don't think he did overcome that. I think he just put it on the back burner," Pollock said. "He wanted to make sure that he brought pride to his father's last name."

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