Friends offer counsel, support -- if Walker decides he wants it
In the span of 18 months, Javon Walker has had a teammate die in his arms and has been brutally assaulted himself. Walker's friends hope he starts accepting their offers to help, writes Bill Williamson.
Ray Sherman knows life hasn't been right for Javon Walker since the first day of 2007.Walker's world has taken a turn that worries Sherman, the Dallas Cowboys' receivers coach and a longtime Walker mentor. "It's not him," said Sherman, who became a father figure to Walker while the two were in Green Bay together. "We need to sit down and talk. He needs to say what is going on, what is bothering him. We need to hammer it out. I'm concerned. I'm worried about him." Sherman's concern is shared by others. Many of the dozens of people ESPN.com interviewed declined to talk on the record about their concern for Walker, a wide receiver who in March signed a six-year, $55 million deal with the Oakland Raiders. But everyone said they have reached out to him in recent days and they all worry about Walker's well-being, both mentally and physically. A traumatic 18-month journey took another sad, upsetting turn in the early morning June 16 on a desolate Las Vegas side street. Shortly after 7 a.m., Walker's athletic body was found motionless, unconscious. His classically handsome face was battered. His wallet was empty. Jewelry was missing from his wrist, his neck and his ears.
|Javon Walker Timeline|
A look at the turbulent past 18 months for new Raiders WR Javon Walker:
• Jan. 1, 2007: Broncos teammate Darrent Williams dies in Walker's arms in downtown Denver.
• Jan. 6: While Williams is buried in Fort Worth, Texas, at a service attended by nearly everyone in the Broncos' organization, Walker reportedly is seen in Las Vegas.
• Aug. 14: HBO airs interview with Walker, who reveals details on Williams' death.
• Sept.: Walker catches 17 passes in the Broncos' first two games but a right knee injury in Denver's third game hinders his performance. Walker misses seven games and has arthroscopic knee surgery.
• Nov./Dec.: Walker plays in Denver's final six games but has just seven catches.
• Dec. 31: The day after Denver's season ends, Walker tells reporters he didn't "fit in" in Denver and wants to leave the team after two seasons.
• Feb. 28, 2008: Broncos cut Walker.
• March 6: Walker signs a six-year, $55 million contract with Oakland.
• June 16: Walker is assaulted in Las Vegas, suffering significant facial injuries.
• June 18: Raiders coach Lane Kiffin says Walker will be ready to practice by the start of training camp next month.
Williams said she knows Walker has not come to grips with the loss of her son."He hasn't dealt with it, he just tried to move on, and believe me, you can't," she said. "I think he is just trying to be strong for everyone. Some men are like that. But he hasn't allowed himself to grieve." Perhaps, he's now trying.
He also donated $30,000 to the Darrent Williams Teen Center in Denver.For all of his inner pain, his questionable judgment and his complaints about his role in offenses in both Green Bay and in Denver, Walker has a sizable warm, lovable side. "Hearing about this situation is just so hard because I have so many good memories of Javon," said Jeff Bowden, Walker's offensive coordinator at Florida State. "He'll always be a special kid to me. And that's how I see Javon -- as a kid. He has that great child-like smile. He always wanted to please you -- he was never trouble. Never."
"He's a great kid," Sherman said. "I just want the best for him."
Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com.