10 Year Member
Changing The NarrativeBy Derrick Walker
I've always been an underdog.
Growing up as an inner-city kid, the standard was just graduating from high school for people of my color.
Going to college and playing Division I ball was just something you saw on TV or read about in magazines.
But it was never my reality—until it was.
I'm living proof now that if you work hard and do the right things, God will bless you. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.
The Tall Kid on the CourtI didn't just wake up one day and suddenly have that mindset, you know?
It took time.
I grew up in a decent neighborhood but that ceiling was always there—no matter what you do.
No one in my household ever graduated from college. So naturally, it was something I just never saw myself doing.
And I was okay with that.
It wasn't like I got into the sport thinking I was going to become a Division I athlete or something like that. I picked up a basketball for two reasons: I was the tallest kid in my grade, and all of my friends were playing the sport.
So I just said to myself, "Why not?"
But I started getting better and growing taller—much, much taller. It eventually got to the point where I wasn't just playing to pass the time with friends. I was starting to get good enough to take my game to the next level.
That's when I started thinking about the fact that no one in my immediate family had a college degree. Could I really be the first one?! That was the moment when I decided I wanted to change the narrative.
Before I could do that, I had to change my mindset.
I had to believe in myself. I had to see beyond that standard that was engrained in my community. My family and friends encouraged me and showed me just how bright my future could be if I made the right decisions.
It was time to put my head down and go to work.
My RiseAnd when you put in the work, doors will open for you.
Before I joined the Huskers, I was playing for the University of Tennessee and a part of the #1 team in the country. Hard to put into words how that kid who was supposed to 'just' graduate from high school ended up on the basketball team of two Power Five schools.
As odd as it sounds, I was proof that I was wrong, you know?
All of this time I thought me going to college was this impossible thing, and out of nowhere, there was nothing impossible about it.
I just want to show all of the young people that they can make it, too.
There are so many talented kids who never get the opportunity to show their skills.
It's important for me to not only change the narrative about my household, but I want to change the narrative within my community. I want my kids to go to college. I want my kids' kids to go to college. I want that kid who could never catch a break to suddenly look up and realize that he/she could go to college.
If I could do it, anyone can do it.
This whole college experience has taught me so much. I've grown in ways I wouldn't have even believed possible, and I'm not only talking about on the basketball court, either.
I've learned about the importance of being on time, holding down a job, and paying bills. I've also figured out my likes and dislikes, along with the people I want and don't want in my life. I have learned more about Derrick, the person, than Derrick, the basketball player, in the last four years.
With graduation just around the corner, I'm proud of the man I've become.
The Living ProofDespite graduating, I'm excited to have another year with the Huskers. After all, I've only been here for a short period of time and haven't really been able to show what I can do on the court.
I'm not ready to leave college basketball yet and feel like we have some unfinished business here.
My journey so far has been life-changing, and I can honestly say I have no regrets. I've learned so much through this entire process about myself, life in general, and the sport of basketball.
All of this has been one big blessing.
And I'll never take any of it for granted.
I might be the first one in my household to graduate from college, but I know I won't be the last. I might be one of the few from my hometown to play Division I ball, but I know there will be others.
There are so many other kids out there looking at the color of their skin and seeing a high school diploma as the standard. They think Division I ball is something you watch or read about in magazines. And then they turn on their television and see me—another kid, now a man, that changed the narrative.
If they can see it, they can believe it.