For Vols Basketball Chaplain, Chris Walker, guiding the team through their walks with Jesus Christ has proven rewarding.
As Loyola Chicago continued their run in the NCAA Tournament, team chaplain, “Sister Jean” became a household name and trademark almost overnight. The 98-year-old nun prays with the team before each game, asking God for a fairly-called game and for a Ramblers victory as time on the clock expires. At Tennessee, the role of team chaplain looks a little differently.
Former Tennessee Vol defensive end (2007-2010) and University of Tennessee Fellowship of Christian Athletes Campus Director, Chris Walker, took over the role of chaplain in July of 2017. Walker previously served as an FCA campus representative at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Walker says he was offered the job in Knoxville multiple times, but felt as though more was to be done in Chattanooga. However, when one of his favorite classes graduated, he felt it was a natural transition to return to Knoxville.
Coming out of Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Walker was highly sought after by schools throughout the country. His decision to come to the University of Tennessee had a lot to do with Coach Fulmer. According to Walker, Coach Fulmer was a father figure to him, and although Walker had three head coaches in four years, the impact Fulmer had on his life can still be felt.
Walker says he truly came to salvation his Freshman year at UT. FCA Director at the time, James Mitchell, played a significant role in Walker’s coming to Christ. In fact, Walker still remembers the day — February 8, 2008 — that his relationship with Jesus was brought to the forefront.
As Walker came back to Knoxville to serve with FCA, he had the opportunity to talk with Coach Barnes about the potential to serve as chaplain. After nearly 2 hours of conversation, in which Walker shared his vision for the team, Barnes voiced his desire for Walker to be around the team. This resulted in Walker attending team practices, but quickly turned into team chapel time and Walker accompanying the team everywhere they traveled. According to Walker, Coach Barnes was supportive from day one.
Walker’s vision for his role of chaplain was to “build a relationship beyond basketball.” He hoped to share the Word with them, and he knew that if he did his part in planting the seed, God’s word wouldn’t return void. In coming back to Knoxville, Walker hoped to emulate Nehemiah when he returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. Walker hoped to return the city of Knoxville, and the men’s basketball team, to its former glory.
After 35 games and countless practices and chapels, Walker says he has seen each player grow in their walks with Christ. According to Walker, “I don’t believe that if you follow Christ, your play on the court is going to get better.” However, Walker says that he believes a relationship with the Lord puts life, school, and basketball into perspective, and allows the team to truly play for an audience of One.
“If you keep the top button buttoned, everything falls into place.”
Walker says each player is relatively on the same spiritual level, however, similar to his role on the court, Admiral Schofield has become a leader. In fact, according to Walker, he has noticed how each player has become a better leader, on the court and off, as they grow in their walks with Christ.
While Tennessee fans can’t wait for next season, as much of the team will be returning, Walker looks forward to the opportunity to present the Word another season, and witness the further development of players, physically and spiritually.
While you may not be able to buy a Chris Walker bobblehead just yet, I expect to see one on the shelves next to Sister Jean very soon.