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Kenny Walker

Joined Denver Broncos

Selected by the Denver Broncos in the eighth round of the 1991 NFL draft, Walker became professional American football's first deaf player since Bonnie Sloan, who had played for the St. Louis Cardinals for one season in 1973. While many teams had overlooked Walker because of his handicap, Broncos' coach Dan Reeves was willing to take a chance on Nebraska's star player. As a defensive linebacker for the Broncos, Walker distinguished himself with his superior vision, strength, and speed. For assistance at meetings, practice, and chalkboard talks, Walker hired an interpreter. He read quarterback Karl Mecklenberg's lips in the huddle, and received defensive calls via signals from fellow linebackers.

Within a few months Coach Reeves was touting Walker as one of the best late-round draft choices the team had made in years. Said Reeves to Tom Farley of the Seattle Times:"Whether it's in the near future or next year, I don't think there is any question [Walker] will end up being a starting defensive end for us." However, Reeves did not follow through on this promise. After playing with the Broncos for two seasons, Walker—who had been named the NFL's Most Inspirational player—was cut from the team in August 1993.

Although the Broncos had suggested that Walker's deafness was a liability, the Canadian Football League was willing to give the talented player a chance. He joined the Calgary Stampeders as a starting linebacker in July 1994, becoming the CFL's first deaf player in history. As a starting linebacker, Walker proved his mettle and once earned the distinction of "defensive player of the week." "[Walker] really wanted to play football, and mentally he had a sense of relief because [Calgary] didn't want him to carry a lot of weight like the Denver Broncos did," Walker's wife, Marti, told Brian Lahm of the Omaha World Herald. Although he enjoyed playing for the Stampeders, Walker told the press that he would take advantage of any future opportunities to come back to the NFL and play in his home country. Such an opportunity did not present itself, however. Walker played with the Stampeders for two seasons, leaving in 1995.

The same year, the Associated Press reported that Walker had sued the Denver Broncos for misrepresenting his disability to other NFL teams. The suit also claimed that the Broncos had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. "Despite proving beyond question that a deaf person could play professional football in the NFL," stated the lawsuit, "the Broncos falsely represented to other NFL teams that Walker's handicap … created an undue hardship." The Broncos' general manager, John Beake, told the Associated Press that the team was prepared to counter the case in court. The press did not follow up on the outcome of the case, however.

Awards and Accomplishments

late 1980s All-American team
1990 Big Eight Conference defensive player of the year
1991 NFL's first deaf player in nearly 20 years
1994 CFL's first deaf player in history

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP Sack Int TD
DEN: Denver Broncos.
1991 DEN 16 3.0 0 0
1992 DEN 15 1.5 0 0
TOTAL 31 4.5 0 0

Retired from football, Walker pursued another dream: teaching and coaching deaf children. Returning to the United States to be with his family, he took a job coaching football at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In 1999 he published his autobiography, Roar of Silence: The Kenny Walker Story, co-written with Bob Schaller. Valued for his contribution to football history, Walker remains a hero and role model among the hearing-impaired and at large.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsFootballKenny Walker Biography - Chronology, Named Defensive Player Of The Year, Joined Denver Broncos, Awards And Accomplishments, Career Statistics