What he thought was a simple trip to Drago's turned into quite the graduation present for former Tulane safety Devon Walker.
With Walker at his side, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton announced on Saturday that the team had signed Walker, who was paralyzed from the neck down following a hit he suffered in September 2012 while playing for the Green Wave, to a contract.
"For me, this is one of my dreams come true," Walker said. "I've been a Saint since before I was walking. Just to be a part of the team and be around the players is more than I could have hoped for."
Walker participated in graduation ceremonies on Saturday morning at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and received his diploma in cell and molecular biology in the afternoon.
In between ceremonies, Walker's family told him they were bringing him to Drago's for some oysters before heading to the Saints facility instead. He found out minutes before Payton's announcement about what the team wanted to do for him.
"He thought he was going to Drago's," Tulane Coach Curtis Johnson said. "In his van, he really couldn't see outside. He knew a couple of turns were different and then he thought he was coming over here because I always brag about the oysters over here on Friday because we get oysters from Drago's."
Payton said that Walker was signing with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis but warned Walker to "make sure to look (the contract) over though. Make sure you have the correct bonus."
"He's been an inspiration to our region, our community, New Orleans, the Tulane family and it's carried over to us over here with the Saints," Payton said. "I'm proud to be up here with him. I'm super proud of his recovery and the way he's handled this and the way he's approached this. He and his family are so thankful for everyone that's helped him through this process."
Johnson, a former Saints assistant coach, said that it was Walker's sister that came up with the original idea of getting the Saints involved with Walker and called Johnson's wife, Angel, to set something up.
Johnson said he called Payton, but joked that he had to leave a message since you "can't get him anymore" on the phone. He turned around and called Loomis who returned his call right away.
"This is just awesome," Johnson said. "This is the best moment. This is a happy graduation right now. Sean is doing a great job with him. He didn't know anything about it until a couple of minutes ago. It was a great day. This kid deserves it all. He's very inspirational. I love this kid. The Saints have given him a great opportunity."
Walker received his diploma on Saturday afternoon along with teammate Derrick Strozier, who was at Saints rookie minicamp trying out for a training camp invite. But just because he was tricked, didn't mean he had forgotten where he was supposed to be going on Saturday.
When asked if he was going to still try and get those oysters, Walker said with a big smile, "I might try after graduation now."
Andrew Lopez can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3405. Follow @_Andrew_Lopez Tweet to @_Andrew_Lopez