Walker mourners fill college gym in N.H. | VailDaily.com

Walker mourners fill college gym in N.H.

John Doyle
Foster's Daily Democrat
Vail, CO Colorado
John Huff/Staff photographer

DURHAM, Colorado – When University of New Hampshire Athletic Director Marty Scarano made a condolence call to Mark Walker, father of slain UNH football player Todd Walker, Scarano interrupted when Mark Walker referred to his son as “just a walk on.”

“I kind of regret that now, but I said ‘Mr. Walker, you have to understand, that doesn’t matter to anybody here,'” Scarano said. “We don’t care how people come to us. Once they’re part of the family, they’re part of the family. It doesn’t matter if you were recruited or not, whether he received scholarship money or not, it doesn’t even matter how much you play. You’re part of our family.”

Hundreds of people – friends, coaches, teammates and classmates of Walker – filled Lundholm Gym on Wednesday night for a celebration of the young athlete’s life. Walker, 20, died Friday night in Boulder, Colo., after stopping a robbery and saving the life of a woman he was walking home. Walker was visiting family in Colorado during UNH spring break.

“He was one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet,” said UNH offensive lineman Seamus O’Neill. “He was friends with everybody. I never heard anyone say one bad thing about him.”

Walker’s last act as a member of the Wildcat football team occurred on the last day of classes before spring break, participating in the team’s intra-squad “Top Cat” drill competition. Todd went 12-0 during one-one-one competition to earn the prestigious “Super Cat” recognition for the first time.

“He won every single rep that day,” said UNH junior quarterback Kevin Decker. “It was the last workout we had.”

Walker’s last act in life was stepping in front of a friend to protect her from an alleged robber. Walker was shot in the chest and died early Friday morning.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all how he went out a hero,” Decker said. “Stepping out in front of someone like that, it’s incredible.”

Walker’s heroic act was a major theme at his memorial service.

“He was a hero in every sense of the word,” Scarano said during his remarks. “Someone else is alive today because of him.”

The service attracted a large crowd that filled an entire side section of bleachers, and also drew attention from television stations from New Hampshire and Boston.

UNH football coach Sean McDonnell spoke at length about his admiration for Walker, even though Walker was just starting out his football career and was not a standout on the team. McDonnell became emotional at times during his remarks.

“The first thing that jumped out at me about Todd was his eyes,” McDonnell said in his remarks. “His blue eyes were illuminating. They were unbelievable. They were always wide open.”

McDonnell said Walker’s death hit home as the father of two sons similar in age to his slain player.

“It absolutely scares me to death,” McDonnell said. “I talked to my one young son about it. (You) just worry about it. Things have changed. There’s guns. It’s different from when I went to school here, different from when I first got here (as a coach).”

“You can’t put into words how awesome this kid was in every aspect,” Decker said. “He always stayed positive. Whenever anyone complained about a workout, he’d say ‘We’re going to get through it, bro, we’re going to be fine.’ He was that kind of kid, always happy.”

Scarano said the large turnout was an indication of the impact Walker had on people in his short life, but also the quality of the UNH community, which he described as a “family.”

“Todd just had that kind of quality about him,” Scarano said. “It’s a reflection of what we all do. I just hope that everyone took a little piece of him away from tonight.”

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