Despite paralysis, ex-Santiago LB Jordan Walker keeps on smiling

Jordan Walker’s smile is one of conviction. It isn’t a nervous grin. It’s matter-of-fact.  

When the former Corona Santiago linebacker was subjected to a hospital bed, it was his smile that provided encouragement for not only himself but those around him.  

"He would always roll over and smile, and it’s pretty tough because you just cry," Walker’s father, Curtis, recalled. "You’re beat up, broke down, and he looks over and smiles at you (and says), ‘Dad we’ll get through it.’ 

"So you kept going." 

Those words were uttered by Walker just days after he suffered a life-altering injury on the football field last year. Walker and his Corona Santiago teammates were at home taking on Upland in the CIF Southern Section Inland Division playoffs in November. 

In the first quarter, Walker came up from his linebacker position to defend the run. The tailback hurdled over a pile and when he came down, hit Walker on the top of the head, and the Santiago linebacker fell to the turf. He was unable to get up — and was left paralyzed after suffering a major spinal cord injury. 

As his parents looked on from the stands, unsure what was going on with their son, a spinal cord injury was nothing they ever imagined. 

"It’s crazy, you don’t think it’s going to be you or your kid," said Walker’s mother, Ali.  

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"You know going into football there’s going to be some injuries — broken bones, sprains, cuts, dislocated finger, maybe a concussion, but never anything like this," Curtis said.  

The Walkers were off of work for the next six months as they coped with their new life and tried to get their son the proper care.

As he went from hospital to hospital, locally, and then to Colorado to the Craig Hospital — which specializes in caring for patients with spinal cord injuries — one thing remained the same with Walker: his smile. 

He couldn’t waver, he wouldn’t allow himself to. He needed to be upbeat in order for those around him to be as well. 

"There’s no point in being a little grumpy kid in a wheelchair," Jordan Walker said. "Nobody’s going to want to be around me if I’m just angry. Keeping an upbeat attitude and always trying to stay positive, it makes me happier. It makes my life easier. It makes life easier for everybody around me because it’s a lot to deal with, so having an upbeat, positive attitude — it just helps out so much."

Walker, not quite a year removed from the injury, is making strides. 

At the time of the injury, doctors said he would need to be on a ventilator for the rest of his life. 

He’s off of it and breathing on his own. 

They said he wouldn’t be able to move again. 

However, he’s begun to have some movement in his right arm. 

It’s the same arm on which he wears a band that reads, "LIFE ROLLS ON."

Whether it’s to the beach or on a family trip to the desert or a weekend at the river or attending football games at Santiago — where he’s an honorary captain for the Sharks this season — Walker isn’t letting the injury stop him from living his life.

"I live the same life, I just have to do things differently — have to adapt (to) life differently. I’m still the same person … I’m just on wheels now," he says with a smile.