Graduation latest stop on Dontae Walker's redemption road

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — One-time high school and Mississippi State football star Dontae Walker says he’s overcome his past.

That past included being dropped from the team in his senior year and later spending four years in prison on drug charges.

He got out in 2009 and began taking classes the following year at Belhaven University. Now 33, he got his bachelor’s degree in social services on Saturday. He begins classes Monday toward a master’s degree in sports administration.

He fought back tears after his graduation.

“Man, this is a big day for me,” he told The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/10MBTsq). “I wanted to cry when they called my name. It’s been a long ride and I have been working hard. I want people to see I am a productive member of society.”

Walker came to Mississippi State as a highly regarded recruit out of Clinton, Miss. His best season was 2000, when he combined with Dicenzo Miller to make Mississippi State the No. 1 rushing team in the Southeastern Conference.

His production dropped off in his junior year and he reported in 2002, his senior year, 20 pounds overweight. He was dropped after walking away from a game because some fans booed him.

He was later arrested for cocaine and marijuana possession. In 2005, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“I overcame that mishap,” Walker said. “The good Lord gave me another chance. I didn’t make it to the NFL, but the good Lord gave me another chance.”

He wants to coach.

He said he has a job offer in Alabama but with 3 ½ years left in his probation he doesn’t know if he can leave the state.

“I want to go out and start coaching as soon as I can,” said Walker. “I have been rehabilitated. Nobody is perfect. I have changed my life and I’m staying out of trouble.”