By Bobby Mardis
Richmond native Kenny Walker III might look like your typical neighborhood at-risk kid but the conscious decision to change his mindset created endless possibilities.
While growing up in Richmond, Kenny’s reality included what he saw from his living room window: drugs, jail, and a path that would lead him into violence, or even worse, dead. He was raised by his mother Patricia, and saw his father, Kenny Walker Sr., on some weekends; they did their best to shield him from the perils of his environment.
Despite his parents’ efforts, Kenny still found himself succumbing to peer pressure with street fights, dismal grades, and school expulsion, forcing his mother to send him to live with his father in Brentwood. But with his father’s guidance, a transformation occurred.
His father gave him man-to-man talks and constantly told him, “Don’t play with it,” which meant give it your all in life and in competition. Maybe the presence of his father made that life altering difference, but a metamorphosis did transpire. His grades got better and he found his true passion, which was football and track. While competing, Kenny’s life’s frustrations manifested themselves into positive results in competitions. He quickly stood out as an extraordinary athlete who fueled his mental barometer by telling himself that “Mom’s gotta’ eat,” and that meant making it to the NFL; a task that only 1,696 players achieve, with 32 teams and 53 roster positions..
Later, Kenny moved back with his mother and attended Kennedy High School. Despite the many obstacles, his new mindset led him to be ranked number one in the state in hurdles.
However, his optimistic mindset and fervent drive pushed him right to UCLA. Obstacles continued to present themselves in college when he was sent home from a bowl game because of subpar grades. BUT He remembered the many talks with his Dad and his father’s motto, “Don’t play with it.”
From that point on, he never received a grade lower than a “B,” and received many football awards for scholastic achievements. Hard work and perseverance created more success and opportunities for Kenny. He graduated in 2016 with a degree in African-American Studies, making the struggle worthwhile.
The next seemly insurmountable obstacle was securing a spot in the NFL. Kenny’s mindset was fueled by his continued persistence in spite of life’s challenges and the odds of actually being drafted. Like many other NFL hopefuls, he waited with baited breath for the draft announcement and subsequent call but it never came. He took his frustration out at a local bowling alley until the phone rang. It was an NFL coach, and he suddenly got an inch closer to his NFL dream.
Kenny was invited to join the Jacksonville, FL Jaguars for their camp. His attitude shifted and positive mindset kept working in his favor to help him achieve yet another goal and a better life than his original trajectory. He got in the first game, but as a wide receiver, he didn’t get the opportunity to make any significant plays. Life’s obstacles kept rearing their ugly heads. A business decision was made and he was cut from the roster to make room for another needed position.
Kenny’s persistent attitude afforded him a few more opportunities with the Jets, Giants, Cowboys and Rams, but he still has yet to sign a contract. As Kenny continues to train with Coach Ant Eggleton and Eric Merrida in Oakland, he is ready for that call to fill a midseason replacement slot.
With the help of his agent Peter Schaffer, Esq., Kenny’s football options may lead him overseas, but one thing is for sure – he is ready to expand his world of possibilities. A degree from UCLA also helps tremendously to brighten his future!