Kenneth Walker III remembers the first time he saw the gangly freshman receiver who would quickly become one of his best friends.
Walker, then a sophomore at Arlington High School outside of Memphis, Tennessee, first noticed Devin Chandler’s boundless energy.
“He was always doing his own thing, just being energetic,” Walker said. “I’m like, ‘Bro, who is this kid that’s always playing around?’… He was always energetic, always play fighting with somebody.”
Walker and Chandler quickly bonded over everything from football to anime, over Walker helping Chandler learn to drive, and over all the typical goofy stuff that bring teenagers together. They both also quickly recognized the uncommon football talent that the other possessed. As they developed into Division I recruits, Walker and Chandler started comparing themselves to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, best friends who achieve their NFL goals together. Walker saved Chandler in his phone not as Devin or “Little Dev,” as he affection tive, Walker will have a picture of Chandler on one of his cleats along with Chandler’s No. 15 and the words “Long Live Devin Chandler.” Walker is one of two Seahawks players who will honor victims of the Virginia shooting along with rookie safety Joey Blount, who was teammates with all three before joining the NFL this year.
“He’s like my little brother,” Walker said of Chandler. “We stayed together all the time. He was the person I used to always hang out with after practice or whatever just for anything.
“He was just super cool. I remember I used to have his name saved in my phone as ‘Future NFL Star.’ We used to always talk about going to the league together, and we always looked up to Odell and Jarvis Landry because they were best friends and we wanted to be like that. And we’d always compete in everything—in a good way though, not in a bad way. We used compete in everything. I used to be like, ‘Oh, bro, I bet my GPA’s going to be higher than yours by the end of the semester,’ all of that. And that was just my little brother. He didn’t know how to drive at one point, and I let him drive my car, just small stuff like that. I love his family. His family’s so welcoming. Yeah, that’s just my dog.”
Beyond the play-fighting and anime and friendly competition over everything, Walker and Chandler were also there for each other in more serious moments. When Walker was considering the transfer that took him from Wake Forest to Michigan State, he called Chandler. When Chandler was considering a simar decision, he reached out to Walker before transferring to Virginia. When Chandler’s father, Quentin, battled cancer and eventually passed away in 2018, Walker was there for him. When Walker was diagnosed with blood clots and hospitalized for multiple days as a junior in high school, Chandler was there for him.
“We just talk about life,” Walker said. “Stuff I went through, I’d tell him about it, and stuff he went through, he’ll tell me about it. And it was just always good to have Dev whenever I wanted to talk to somebody. Especially when I was going to transfer from Wake Forest, that’s the person I called, I used to talk to him about it. It was just cool to have him because he was always so positive and energetic. No matter what he was going through in life, he was always there to help somebody else.
“Dev went through a lot. His pops had cancer, and when we were both at the hospital, I believe it was Dev’s junior year, his pops ended up passing away. Dev ended up playing that game that week and he still fought through and everything, because he knew his pops wanted him to do. Dev was just inspirational to everybody around him. If you talk to somebody that knows Dev, you’ll understand, because bro’s just super funny and always energetic. It’s just great to have somebody like him around.”
The last time Walker got to talk to Chandler was in October when Chandler FaceTimed to wish Walker a happy birthday. Less than a month later, Walker received the unimaginable news that his friend, his little brother, was gone.
Fighting back the tears that came throughout a 20-minute interview, Walker said, “I just want to say cherish the people that you love, because you never know when it’s the last time you’ll see them.”
“Don’t take anything for granted because it all can get thrown away at any time.”
One of the many times Chandler was there for Walker came during the spring of Walker’s junior season when the running back unexpectedly found himself hospitalized with blood clots in lungs. That brief scare, and his experience at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, is why Walker’s other cleat on Sunday will represent that hospital, and by extension the children there and at other Children’s Hospitals who are fighting their own battles.