Walker fulfills promise to mom and more
By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
July 3, 2002
All Carolyn Brantley wanted from her son Kenyatta Walker was for him to earn his high school diploma and get a honest job.
Walker's done more than that. He has a high-profile job as a starting offensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Last season, as a rookie, Walker started all 16 games for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay went 9-7 and made the playoffs for the third straight year, only to be beaten in the first round by Philadelphia.
The quick exit led to the dismissal of long-time Bucs coach Tony Dungy. In came former Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.
Walker, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 302, said the change to Gruden was more than just attitude.
Spurrier was Walker's college coach for three years at the University of Florida. It was where Walker was a consensus All-Southeastern Conference linemen.
While Dungy was known for his conservative offensive game plans, that will not be the case with Gruden. Again, his style is more like Spurrier who is now the Washington Redskins' boss.
How Walker made it to the NFL is quite a story in itself. One of his best friends was Kenny Smith, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, a soon-to-be new rival for the Bucs.
Ricky Hood, the former Meridian director of the Boys and Girls Club, remembers Walker.
As a rising prep sophomore, Walker transferred to Meridian High School.
Instead of Arizona State or Alabama, where Smith signed, Walker went to Spurrier at Florida. Just getting there was a blessing for his mom.
Three years with the Gators and a pair of SEC titles led him to being selected in the first round by the Bucs.
So much so that Walker paid the club back. Last weekend, he sponsored the first Kenyatta Walker Champions for Children Golf Tournament and sports memorabilia auction.
The outpouring of support for Walker's cause, was stunning to his mom.