Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS - In the midst of touchdowns and cheering crowds inside the Superdome, one thing set Saturday's match-up between Ole Miss and Tulane apart. The player everyone was rooting for was the one who wasn't there.
It was the Green Wave's first game since safety Devon Walker suffered a serious spinal injury. Walker is currently in an out-of-state in-patient rehabilitation center after fracturing his spine in Tulane's game against Tulsa two weeks ago.
And, in a show of solidarity and support, Ole Miss players sported Walker's initials on their helmets.
'This is a big fraternity that we have here with football,' said Ole Miss assistant athletic director John Miller. 'Our hearts go out to him. We experienced it back in the late '80s with Chuckie Mullins. We know what this team's going through. We know what this fan base is going through, and we just wanted to show our support for Tulane football.'
Tulane players sported Walker's number, 18, on their helmets. The coaching staff wore shirts with the number 18 to show why the team is playing with a purpose.
'It means a lot that we're all here to support him but also he's here with us, so we're hopeful that that will carry the day,'said Rick Dickson, Tulane University's athletic director.
Though Tulane lost to Ole Miss, 39-0, the spirit of solidarity helped carry fans and the team through.
Off the field, fellow student athletes sold shirts with Walker's number to fundraise for his medical expenses.
'We're all athletes and the athletes at Tulane are really a big family. We want to really come out and support Devon. It really means a lot to all of us that he gets his care and gets better,' said Tulane freshman John Mouton.
'It's very important as a family to support Devon and his family. [Tulane quarterback] Ryan Griffin is my nephew. And injuries can be obviously life threatening and it's just very important to support the family at this time,' said Peggy Johnson of Dallas.
And family is what the outpouring is really all about. A family of players and fans, regardless of team, doing what they can to come together and support someone who needs it.
'In Devon's case, it's even so much more than about football,' said Dickson. 'Just the kind of young man he is, both on our campus and on this team, and that's just a real heart and soul aspect of it.
And while Walker's absence is felt by everyone in the stadium, fans and players alike are doing what they can to fill that void with hope.
If you would like to find out more about walker's recovery, and how to contribute, click here.