Devontez Walker Is Battle Tested Entering NFL

May 6, 2024


After challenging the NCAA and winning, Devontez Walker is grateful for his fresh start with the Ravens.

The fourth-round wide receiver made national news last year when he was initially denied eligibility to play. The NCAA ruled that Walker would have to sit out the 2023 season after transferring from Kent State to North Carolina. He was ruled a two-time transfer, even though he never played a game at North Carolina Central in 2020 when its season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five attorneys worked on Walker’s case and many prominent people supported him including North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. However, Walker missed the first four games and felt his college career was in jeopardy.

“I thought my season was done, honestly,” Walker said. “I was on the scout team and I was thinking, ‘I’m just trying to work on my craft.’ The whole year, I had no idea that I was going to play at all, and I was 50-50 on declaring for the Draft.”

Walker’s battle with the NCAA had a happy ending when he was reinstated in October and played eight games, registering 41 catches for 699 yards and seven touchdowns.

Now Walker hopes to make an immediate impact with the Ravens, joining a wide receiver room led by Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman and Nelson Agholor. Walker has 4.36 speed and the potential to be a deep-ball threat right away, but the 6-foot-1, 193-pound target wants to prove he’s not one-dimensional.

“I feel like I can do a really good job getting over top of any defense,” Walker said. “The thing I’m trying to work on is underneath routes, like those routes 20-yards-and-under. Getting open in those types of spaces and things like that, that’s something I’ve been working on [in] minicamp and before minicamp when I was at home training.

Walker’s saga with the NCAA tested his patience, but he had dealt well with challenges before.

His grandmother and biggest fan, Loretta Black, required multiple surgeries on her hip and knee when Walker was in high school. Walker became his grandmother’s primary caregiver, and after suffering a knee injury before his first college season, he stayed home with Black and worked at Bojangles to pay for his rehab.

During the draft process, Director of College Scouting David Blackburn was impressed not only with Walker’s talent, but his maturity.

“The thing that I really like most about him is that he’s encountered some athletic adversity in his life, and he’s overcome,” Blackburn said. “And he’s a really mentally tough kid, as well as physically tough. He works at his craft, and he’s a great teammate. So, outside of those physical traits that he has, he has a lot of intangibles as well.”

Minicamp has given Walker a chance to work against the two cornerbacks the Ravens drafted – first-round pick Nate Wiggins and fourth-rounder T.J. Tampa. The competition will ramp up during the summer when the veterans report and Walker tries to separate and make catches against Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Stephens, and others.

Wide Receivers Coach Greg Lewis has already begun working with Walker on the nuances of his craft, and Walker is enjoying the process.

“My biggest takeaway is attention to detail,” Walker said. “In college, they just throw a play at you, and you just go out there and do it. Here, you have to remember every little thing. Any little, small thing, it messes up the whole play.

“(Greg Lewis) has giving me a lot of tools, helping me get open better and how to code plays. Like the first day, I was covered. Then, I came back today and ran those routes. I was a little more open, so him just giving me those tools and giving me that knowledge of playing the game and coaching for as long as he has, it’s been really good with him so far.”

The disappointment of waiting until the fourth round to be drafted is behind Walker. So is his battle with the NCAA. Now he’s free to play football at the highest level, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said Walker’s first days of minicamp have been strong.

“You knew he was going to be fast, and you knew he was going to be big and fast,” Harbaugh said. “He showed that. I was impressed with how well he moved changing direction. I didn’t know if he was going to change direction quite as well as he did the last two days. [He] caught the ball really well. He’s off to a great start.”