After an ACL tear, Northeast Lauderdale’s AJ Walker proud to sign with Hamline

AJ Walker signs his National Letter of Intent as his mom and other family members watch
AJ Walker signs his National Letter of Intent as his mom and other family members watch(WTOK Sports)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 1:30 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Like any senior athlete, AJ Walker was looking forward to suiting up for his final football season at Northeast Lauderdale.

In the offseason, Walker played a big part in helping the team become adjusted to new head coach Maurice Gowdy, telling Newscenter 11 it was “his job” as an upperclassmen to do so.

Coach Gowdy and the rest of the Trojans valued Walker so much they made him a captain for the 2020 season, which made his injury in the second game of the year even more heartbreaking.

In the Trojan’s matchup at Jackson Academy, Walker suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his right leg. The injury robbed Walker of his senior season, and what he thought was his only chance at playing football at the next level.

Despite the setback, Walker stayed optimistic in his pursuit of playing college football. He posted highlights from previous seasons on Twitter, looking to generate interest from colleges that might give the injured wide receiver a chance.

Before Christmas break, the opportunity Walker had been hoping for came knocking from a liberal arts school in Saint Paul, Minn. called Hamline University.

“One of the coaches had contacted me on Twitter,” Walker said. “How the conversation really started was he asked me if I was afraid to play in the cold. I said weather’s not really a problem for me. Ever since then it’s just been a great connection with me, the coaches and the players and I felt like that was the right place for me to go.”

Coach Gowdy emphasized that while Walker’s talent on the football field is impressive, his ability to be a leader for the team and set a good example at school sets him apart from others.

“AJ is a phenomenal young man. He’s passionate about everything he does, whether that’s on the field or in the classroom,” Coach Gowdy said. “He’s worked tremendously hard to get to where he is right now and I’m proud he’s received this opportunity.”

For an athlete signing their National Letter of Intent, putting pen to paper is always a breath of fresh air. For Walker, it’s even more of a relief after navigating a year filled with a new head coach, a season ending injury and the sudden death of a teammate.

“All the hard work paid off even with not playing the entire season,” Walker said. “All the years of work I put in trying to get to this point have been worth it.”

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