Over the course of its history, the NFL has earned a reputation as the single most competitive professional sports league. That reputation rests on both the high caliber of talent the NFL attracts. It also stems from the parity rules put in place by the league to maintain as equal a playing field as possible between franchises.
Yet there are plenty of examples of cooperation and kindness within the NFL as well, especially on the human level. A perfect example was the help that retired quarterback Andrew Luck recently gave P.J. Walker, ultimately allowing him to find his way back into the NFL. Here we outline the history between the two men, Luck’s helpful gesture, and Walker’s return to the NFL.
Andrew Luck and P.J. Walker’s shared past
Andrew Luck may have had a short NFL career, but he was widely considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league for that time. The Indianapolis Colts took Luck with the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Luck earned Pro Bowl selections in four of his six seasons, while also leading the league in passing touchdowns in 2014 and winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2018.
P.J. Walker had a very different pathway into the NFL. After spending four years quarterbacking for the Temple University Owls in college, Walker went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead, he spent two years as a member of the Colt’s practice squad. It was during that time that Luck and Walker got to know one another.
Although Walker never managed to earn a permanent spot on the Colts’ roster, Luck came to recognize his sterling character and hard work ethic. So when Walker was released from the Colts’ practice squad in August 2019, Luck didn’t waste any time before stepping in to offer his friend a helping hand.
Andrew Luck’s XFL connection
Luck was in a unique position to help Walker thanks to the fact that his father, Oliver Luck, is the commissioner of the newly reestablished XFL. Luck Sr. was responsible for assigning quarterbacks to the eight teams prior to the XFL’s inaugural season. According to Luck Sr. himself, his son Andrew had strongly recommended Walker as a “good kid and a hard worker.”
That was all it took for Walker to get his big break as the starting quarterback for the Houston Roughnecks XFL squad. While Luck may have given him the needed boost to get the job, Walker soon proved that he had the skills necessary to prove his worth. Not only that, but Walker also established himself as the single best quarterback in the league.
P.J. Walker’s return to the NFL
The XFL season was ultimately cut short by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Prior to that, however, Walker had led the Roughnecks to an undefeated 5-0 record. He also led the XFL in both passing yards and passing touchdowns, while connecting on an impressive 65% of his pass attempts.
With achievements like those, it was clear that Walker wasn’t going to remain stuck in the XFL for long. Sure enough, just a day after he was placed on the reserve/other league list, Walker signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. That deal made Walker the very first XFL player to earn a spot in the NFL.
Walker won’t be getting the Panthers’ starting quarterback role, of course. Instead, he will find himself locked in competition with Will Grier to determine who plays backup to starting QB Teddy Bridgewater. If Walker can keep up his stellar XFL play, he should be a lock for the backup role, especially since Carolina’s head coach Matt Rhule was also Walker’s coach for all four of his years at Temple.