NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The end of Delanie Walker’s 2018 season was quick and painful.
After making a catch in the fourth quarter in Week One at Miami, the Titans tight end was tackled, and he felt the weight of a Dolphins defender come crashing down on his right ankle.
“It felt like I’d twisted my ankle at that point,” Walker said. “And then when I rolled over to try and get up, my foot was facing the other way. That’s when I knew I broke it, because I couldn’t feel it. Right then and there, I said, “Damn, the season is over for me.”
The support Walker has received since, however, has lasted a long time.
The 13-year pro, and three-time Pro Bowler said the calls and messages of support continue to roll in, 10 days after suffering the injury, and being placed on Injured Reserve. Walker had surgery last week.
Walker said the well-wishes have buoyed him during a difficult time. As he watched the Titans play the Texans on Sunday at his home with a few buddies, reality hit him again. While he was fired up to see the Titans pull out a 20-17 win, he wished he could have been on the field with his teammates.
“It was hard to watch. I wanted to be out there, and I wanted to help my team out,” Walker said. “I think I felt it most on Sunday, watching the guys play and me not being on the field. It kind of brings me down. I think that’s the first time I felt down. But I was so happy to see the team win. I was so excited, I was yelling at the TV. And at the end of the day I know I am blessed. I am walking away from an injury I can recover from and be stronger next year, and that is keeping my head up high.
“And the support I’ve received, it’s meant a lot to me, and I appreciate that. When it first happened, to have my teammates come out and treat me like they did on the field, and to see the guys on the Dolphins come over to me after I went down, showing me respect. … My teammates, guys on the airplane came up and said they hope I get better, they’re keeping me in their prayers. That picks up your spirits, and I am glad I have peers that care about me.
“And the fans, it’s been crazy,” Walker continued. “After it happened I started getting message, tweets, DMs, and it’s still coming in. The fans have been tremendous and I am thankful for the support from them. For sure, that’s cheering me up.”
Walker was voted as a captain by his teammates before the start of his 13th NFL season. He was named to his third straight Pro Bowl in 2017 after he led the team with 74 receptions for 807 yards and three touchdowns. Walker was named Offensive MVP of the Pro Bowl after catching two touchdowns in the game, including an 18-yard, game-winning score in the fourth quarter.
In his career, Walker has caught 483 passes for 5,673 yards and 34 touchdowns. He played his first seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Titans prior to the 2013 season.
On September 9, Walker was carted off the field at Hard Rock Stadium, his lower right leg in an air cast, after being injured in the closing minutes.
Walker, 34, knows the talk has already started from those who wonder if he’ll be able to return to form.
“I expect that,” Walker said. “That’s the thing about this game – you are always going to have doubters. But you are also going to have believers, and I am one of them. I believe in myself, and this is something that if I say I can come back from it and be better than ever, I am going to do it. That’s what I am striving for.
“But I know I have to be patient. This is an injury I don’t want to rush. I want to make sure it is healed correctly so I can play at a high level, with no setbacks. So that is the key right now, to be patient, and let it heal. And when the time comes, I’ll be looking forward to getting this (cast) off of my foot and start walking, rehabbing and getting back to running again, getting back to my old self.”
Walker had this message for Titans fans:
“I appreciate all the support. That was a big factor in keeping my spirits up, man, just to see all the fans, all the love, it was crazy. I maybe expected some of it, but it was more than I expected and I love that. I just want to tell all the fans, “Thank you.’ It means a lot and I am going to come back and I am going to be the old Delanie, and put in some work in 2019. The fans cheered me up and I loved it, so thank you to all the fans out there.”
TitansOnline.com looks back at TE Delanie Walker's 2017 Pro Bowl season. (AP Photos)