Chris Walker had a solid football career at the University of Tennessee as a defensive end.
He played for three head coaches — Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley — during one of the proud football program’s toughest eras.
During Walker’s time on Rocky Top, the Volunteers had their share of struggles, but Walker’s accomplishments earned him a chance to play in the National Football League — an opportunity that didn’t work out. He was cut by the Baltimore Ravens.
But the biggest transition in college for Walker wasn’t on the football field. That happened in 2008 when he became a Christian.
“It happened in 2008 during my freshman year,” said Walker, who recently began his third year as UT Athletic Department’s chaplain, speaking to Farragut High School’s chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes Thursday, Sept. 12. “We had a chaplain here named James Mitchell and he put his arm around me and he just loved on me.
“We also had another chaplain who came after him who had a big impact on me.”
In addition to his duties with the Volunteers, Walker often speaks to teenagers and other school students.
While he feels it’s his calling, it’s also a labor of love.
“I’m basically a spiritual life coach for our athletes (with the Vols),” he said. “And when I come to the schools, I just try to share the Gospel with these kids and I always talk about that with them.
“It’s tough to be a teenager and it always is. It was tough when I was growing up but it’s tougher now. I didn’t face have the challenges when I was growing up” they face today, added Walker, a Memphis native.
“When I talk to these kids, I want to offer them another way.”
After dedicating his life to Jesus Christ, Walker was active in FCA, but he answered the call to be a chaplain after his short-lived NFL career came to an end.
His first venture into the collegiate athletics ministry came with UT-Chattanooga.
“I got my first opportunity to become a chaplain after I got cut by Baltimore,” Walker said. “I became the chaplain at UTC and I was there for six years.”
He was on Chattanooga’s staff when the Mocs came to Big Orange Country to play the Vols in 2014. He wasn’t at Neyland Stadium for that game because of a prior commitment.
“It’s funny. I was at UTC the last time they played here but I didn’t get to make the trip because one of my best friends was getting married in Bristol,” Walker recalled. “But the guys asked me who I would be rooting for.
“I told them that I would be wearing their colors but my blood always runs orange,” he added.
Tennessee played the Mocs again in Neyland Stadium Saturday, Sept. 14, picking up its first victory of 2019, 45-0.