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New Orleans Saints surprise paralyzed former Tulane player with a contract on his graduation day

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Tulane safety Devon Walker made a routine tackle during a 2012 football game against Tulsa. Except it wasn't routine, not by a long shot.

Walker never got up off the ground, never gave the thumbs-up sign players are expected to flash after an especially hard hit. The collision paralyzed Walker from the neck down; he now uses a wheelchair with a ventilator. But the former football player still rolled across the stage as a Tulane graduate today — just a year behind his pre-injury timeline — with a degree in cell and molecular biology. He headed out into the world as not just a college graduate but a New Orleans Saint.

Former Saints receiver coach Chris Johnson took over Tulane's Green Wave team in 2011, and the pros have established a solid rapport with their college counterparts. Since Walker's injury, the Saints have found him "an inspiration to our region, to our community, New Orleans, the Tulane family," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

For his part, Walker said he's been a Saint "since before I was walking." Saturday's surprise signing — Walker thought he was visiting the rookie mini-camp practice — just made his place with the team official.

What now? Walker completed a thesis on spinal injuries for his degree, and he says he is considering graduate school.

"I am still on a quest to seek out and overcome my greatest adversity," he told CBS Sports.

With a team of Saints behind him, Walker's odds to meet those challenges seem pretty good.