NEW ORLEANS - A couple of years ago, two Tulane students became entrepreneurs, designing and selling clothes. But today, the seniors redirected their focus to injured classmate, football player Devon Walker and his family. Walker is still in a hospital in Tulsa after breaking his neck in Saturday's game. But the students never expected just how big of an impact they would have.
"We just looked at each other we saw the injury live or the collision live and we just looked at each other and said, 'What can we do?'" said Jesse Schwartz, a Tulane premed cenior majoring in sociology. (The shirts can be purchased online.)
There are wristbands for $5. Students could sign a huge get well banner. But it took just an hour and a half to empty the boxes of 550 shirts that went for $20 a piece.
"We knew people would step up. Yeah. So we're excited about the opportunity to raise as much money as possible," said Brad Girson, a Tulane Business Senior majoring in marketing and management. He said his cost per shirt is around $5 to $7, so the rest will all go to the Devon Walker fund.
Tulane and the NCAA have health insurance for athletes, but there will be many out of pocket costs. Tulane did not give us the specifics on how the co-payments or deductibles are handled.
Students, faculty, staff and pets feel a solidarity.
"He was the best. He is the epitome of what an excellent student is. He was smart. He was kind and was such a great athlete," said Katherine Greissman, a Tulane junior who sat behind Devon in physics lab. "We didn't know what we were doing in physics lab and Devon turned around, he's like, 'Oh yeah, I used to build robots when I was a kid.' And he just did it in two seconds and it was the most amazing thing."
The Tulane Public Relations Office has been getting calls from around the world from football players, alumni, community people, who just want to know how Devon is. Calls have come in to WWL-TV News as well from people wanting to know if Devon recover or will he have paralysis? Right now it is unclear because the family has asked for privacy and they don't want to give any specific updates right now about his medical condition.
Football teammates showed up at the t-shirt fundraiser but say they have not gotten any medical updates either.
"I'm coping with it. I mean, it was hard at first, when it first happen it took a toll on me. Good thing I had good friends and family and supports that I could talk to about it, but I'm getting through it," said Shakiel Smith, a Tulane senior and football free safety and strong safety.
The football players said they pray for Devon and demonstrated how he is remembered in the huddle with a special chant calling out number 18.
For the hundreds who reserved t-shirts on the internet but could not get them earlier today, 1,000 more were ordered mid-day and they are on sale now in the Quad at Tulane.
The Tulane bookstore has 300 mail order requests and the t-shirts will also be sold in the athletic department beginning Wednesday of next week.
Even though there's no Tulane game this weekend, there's a big pep rally at 6:30 p.m. Friday for Devon.
The students hope to sell the shirts next weekend at the Superdome for the Tulane vs. Ole Miss game.
It could happen to anyone of us; it is just unfortunate it happen to Devon, such a great person he came on as a walk-on and got a scholarship for two years that tells you a lot about him