TEXAS NATIVE WALKER GETS HIS DREAM JOB AS COLLEGE COACH

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Check the list of Nebraska’s modern-day
football letter winners from the
state of Texas, and you find 84 names – from Kelvin Clark in the
’70s to Broderick Thomas in the ’80s, from Aaron Taylor in the ’90s
to Keyuo Craver from the most recent decade.

Ten Texas natives have, in fact, become Nebraska
football All-Americans, and 17 have
become all-conference players, including the likes of Rick Berns,
Turner Gill and Demorrio Williams.

Yes, the eyes of Nebraska have smiled on a treasure chest of
Texas talent that creates a mountain of memories.

But one player always will have a special place in the hearts of
Nebraska’s most intensely loyal fans – Kenny Walker.

A Crane, Texas, native, Walker is in a league of his own in
terms of sheer inspiration because he had to overcome the greatest
odds — coming to Nebraska as a solely recruited deaf player that
willed his way to a first-team All-American and a three-year pro
career with the Denver Broncos.

Last week, we caught up with Walker to get an update on some
good news this fall:

In September, you joined the Gallaudet
University
football staff in Washington, D.C.,
as the defensive line coach for an NCAA Division III team. Having
coached at the Iowa School for the Deaf for so long, tell us why
this opportunity is so important for you and your family?

I have wanted to help out the Gallaudet
University athletic program for a
long time. As the national leader in higher education for the deaf
and hard of hearing, this is an excellent place to coach and make
an impact. I want to help our student-athletes improve their
communication skills on the
football field but also off of it. I
want to share my professional playing experience with them and help
prepare them for life after
college. I am still fairly new to
the area so I am still learning the ropes here. My family lives in
Northern Virginia now so for me to be here in the District of
Columbia is great because I am closer to my daughter and son.

Does joining a school with the world’s greatest reputation for
serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students meet a career goal, and
is it a place that you can see yourself staying for the rest of
your professional life?

I feel this is a great place to be a coach and a professional. I
am currently working part-time at the
University but I would welcome a
chance to be a full-time employee here. This is a type of place
where you can grow professionally and as a person. I know some of
our players may look up to me as a role model, which is flattering.
I want them to see that their dreams can come true just like they
did for me.

Will Shields, your Husker teammate, Kansas City all-pro and
one-time NFL Man of the Year, insists his all-time greatest thrill
in
college was your Senior Day. He
said Husker fans gave you the loudest “Roar of Silence” he’s ever
seen. Does it surprise you that your special moment is his favorite
memory?

I never knew that story about Will. I am moved to learn about
that now. I am thankful to the Nebraska faithful for that reception
I experienced back on Senior Day. When I look back on that day it
reminds me of the tough road I had to take to get to that moment.
The
University of Nebraska helped me so
much with my communication skills that, in turn, helped me become a
better person.

Your autobiography – Roar of Silence – tells the Kenny Walker
Story. For those of us who haven’t read the book, tell us what you
consider to be the core points communicated.

My goal when I wrote the Roar of Silence was to share my
experience being a deaf
football player in a hearing world.
I wanted to show other people how they can overcome their personal
life struggles or adverse circumstances. For me my hurdle early on
in life was dealing with being deaf and being accepted in society.
Hopefully, others can read my book and apply my experience to what
they are going through, and maybe it will help them.

Who inspired you most in your life and who continues to inspire
you now?

The person who has inspired me the most was my former high
school coach, Ricky White, at Crane High School. He opened the door
for me as a deaf player and showed me where it could take me.
Currently, Coach Tom Osborne inspires me. I can’t thank him and the

University enough for what they did
for me. I received a nice message from Tom after my announcement
here at Gallaudet
University, and I am thankful for
his kind words and his support and for being my coach in
college.

Besides Senior Day, what’s your all-time favorite Husker memory
and why?

Actually, one of my favorite Husker memories is the first time I
ever saw the
University of Nebraska on
television. It was the 1984 Orange Bowl when top-ranked Nebraska
went up against No. 5 Miami. I was an early teen at the time and
had never dreamt of playing for Nebraska yet. But I will always
remember the first time I saw the Scarlet and Cream uniforms and
the ‘N’ on the helmet of the players. Nebraska made a great
comeback in that game and even though the Cornhuskers came up
short, I will never forget that game. Years later, I saw a poster
at my high school, and it was from the
University of Nebraska. There was a
picture of a kicker, and my memories immediately jumped back to
that game.

Take us back to your days when Nebraska recruited you in Crane.
How did you know that Lincoln would be the right place for you, and
what other schools did you consider besides Nebraska?

The
University of Nebraska was the only
school open to my deafness and me. Most of the schools I looked at
it didn’t accept my deafness. This was before the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 so it was hard to find a school that would
be open to the deaf. When I had my interview with Nebraska I
learned about the different programs they had to offer me, and I
was sold. It was at Nebraska where I learned American Sign Language
(ASL). I grew up using Signing Exact English (SEE) as my first
language. SEE is a sign language system that represents literal
English.

You always had someone who signed for you when you played at
Nebraska. Do you think you could have played longer than five years
in the pros if the support had been similar in the NFL and the
Canadian
Football League?

That’s a tough question for me. I never wanted to talk about the
communication problems I was having at the professional level. The
NFL/CFL teams I played for believed I could communicate without an
interpreter. It was tough for me to understand the team meetings at
the pro level because of the communication issues. So could I have
played longer with the right communication lines set-up to help me?
Probably.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever learned as a person, a
player, a husband or a father and why?

Acceptance. A single mother raised me when I grew up in Texas. I
was the sixth of seven children (I have three sisters and three
brothers). I was born hearing but lost my hearing when I was two
because I contracted meningitis. My mother taught me to be a better
person and rise above others that may look down on you. She
prepared me for the real world and helped me to become more
accepted in society. I owe a lot of gratitude to her. For any query
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