Harbaugh: 'On a personal level, I miss Delanie'
Delanie Walker has 20 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns, and is on pace for his best NFL season as a pass-catcher. (USATSI)
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Delanie Walker played his first seven seasons with the 49ers, catching 123 passes for eight touchdowns. (USATSI)
Delanie Walker has demonstrated a lot of growth on and off the field in the short time since he played his final game with the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Less than 24 hours after the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Walker learned his aunt and uncle, Alice and Bryan Young, had been killed by a drunk driver as they were rear-ended on their way to the airport.
Walker immediately set out to make a difference, as he joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He has taken part in MADD charity events and he has spoken out about the dangers of drunk driving at numerous functions, including the NFL Rookie Symposium. Walker has another event scheduled Monday -- the day after he faces his former teammates for the first time as a member of the Tennessee Titans.
Before that, Walker attended the infamous Aldon Smith house party in June 2012. He has been named in two civil lawsuits filed by gunshot victims, though neither Walker nor Smith is accused of the shootings at the house party. Smith also faces three felony weapons charges. Walker does not face any criminal charges.
Obviously, Walker was disappointed to hear about Smith arrest on Sept. 20 on DUI charges. Smith is currently on a voluntary leave of absence as he undergoes treatment for substance abuse.
“Aldon is a young guy,” Walker said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “He’s a little wild dude. He’s kind of wild. I didn’t think something like that would happen during the season.
“I’d think he wouldn’t get into any more trouble after what was going on, but I don’t know. I don’t know how he’s changed. I haven’t been out there in San Francisco. I haven’t talked to him in awhile. So it kind of did surprise me a little bit.”
[RELATED: No change in Aldon Smith's status]
Walker, 29, said young players entering the NFL have to undergo a maturing process because of how lifestyles can change overnight.
“You got to remember, a lot of us come into this league not having a dime to our name,” Walker said. “Then, you sign a million dollar contract and you go out and you lose your mind a little bit. It takes time.”
Things have changed quite a bit for Walker, who signed a four-year, $17.5 million contract this offsesason with the Titans. The deal included $8.6 million guaranteed.
Through six games with the Titans, Walker has 20 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He is on pace for his best NFL season as a pass-catcher.
“I’m the first read at tight end,” Walker said. “They put in plays for me to get the ball and have opportunities to try to make plays. That’s all I ask for, and that’s why I’m here.”
Walker’s best season during his seven years with the 49ers came in 2010 when he caught 29 passes for 331 yards and no touchdowns. He said it was a great experience to play behind Davis and learn the tight end position after playing wide receiver at Central Missouri.
“I wasn’t drafted as a tight end,” he said. “I was drafted as a receiver. I was trying to become a good tight end in the NFL. I felt like learning behind Vernon was a good opportunity to do how he did, blocking wise. And that’s what I developed. And now it’s a good opportunity to break off from that and have my own identity.”