NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Bryant Young didn't know it, but Delanie Walker was watching the veteran defensive lineman's every move when he came into the league with the San Francisco 49ers.
Walker was a rookie in 2006, when Young was nearing the end of a long and successful career.
"He took me under his wing,'' Walker said of Young. "He was nice to me for some reason. I looked at him and understood what it means to be a professional."
Titans Online looks back at the work of tight end Delanie walker in the greater Nashville community in 2015. (Staff Photos)
These days, Walker is the veteran that young players look to with the Titans.
On Wednesday, Walker was named the 2015 Titans recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It marked the second time Walker has received the honor after being named the Titans Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2013. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field.
"(Delanie) is out there in the community, reaching out,'' rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "He is a good person that guys like myself can look up to and try and be like. He has done it for a long time in this league. The way he carries himself, I think guy can really relate to that and learn from him."
Walker, in his 10th NFL season, has been extremely active in the community since joining the Titans in 2013.
Last year, Walker established the Delanie Walker Gives Back Foundation with a mission to provide inner city, low-income and at-risk children with the educational opportunities and resources to reach their full potential and beat the odds.
In June, the foundation hosted its inaugural Celebrity Go-Karting Challenge, raising more than $40,000 to help fund community outreach programs such as Back to School COOL, Delanie's Imagination Stations and College Bound. In September, Walker hosted Titans & T-Bones, raising over $80,000 to begin implementing Delanie's Imagination Stations and reading corners throughout Nashville schools.
Also, one of the main focuses of Walker's community service is in support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving following a horrific family tragedy in February 2013. Walker became determined to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and has become a national spokesperson for MADD.
"Delanie just represents this organization and his family and everybody very well on and off the field, the way he does everything,'' Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said. "He's an easy guy to follow for young players, and everything he does."
Walker is now eligible for the league-wide 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which will be awarded during the upcoming Super Bowl week.
Walker said he's happy to get the recognition, but "I don't do this for awards, or to get plaques.
"I do it because I feel we should give back,'' Walker said. "Growing up the way I grew up, if I had someone like myself doing that in our community, I think more people in my community would have gone in a different path. We didn't have that, so that is kind of why I see myself going out to these communities and talking to these kids and telling them 'you don't have to be trapped in a box.' Some of them think they are trapped in a box because of the area they live in. You have to give them a chance. … You have to let them know you care about them."
Walker has a unique way to help raise money for his foundation. He collects fines in the meeting rooms for on-field infractions such as dropped passes, jumping offsides, fumbling, holding, and not finishing plays. Players are even fined for flatulence in meeting rooms. The money goes into a jar, and then to the foundation.
Fans can help Walker as well.
The overall winner of the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is decided by a panel of judges, but there's also a "Charity Challenge" that is decided on by fans. Now through December 31, fans can use the hashtag #WalkerWPMOYChallenge to vote for Delanie. The player whose hashtag is used the most (on any social media platform) receives an additional $20,000 for his foundation.