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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