Chris Walker crammed a lot into the last seven months.
At the end, all that mattered was that he got to pack a bag.
The former Tennessee defensive end experienced a wide range of emotions, from the low of getting passed over in the NFL Draft to the excitement of producing highlights in an all-star game and signing his first professional contract.
He's literally been all over the map as well, from working out in Atlanta to get ready for the next level, putting on pads in Orlando and recently heading up to Hartford, Conn., to report for a UFL training camp that never really got off the ground.
Ultimately everything Walker has gone through since his career with the Vols ended last December, all the good and the bad, led him exactly where he wanted all along. On Tuesday afternoon, Walker took the things he needed, caught a plane and started another journey — officially beginning life as a member of an NFL franchise after signing a free-agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens shortly after the lockout was lifted Monday.
"I'm still on Cloud Nine right now," Walker said by phone. "It's been a dream of mine since I was little to be able to play for an NFL team and have that opportunity to try to make a team. God blessed me, and when everything happened up there in the UFL, I was kind of upset about it.
"But I knew God had something better, and this is the better that he had for me. I'm just excited, but I know it's going to be a long road. Everything starts right now."
For Walker and the rest of the undrafted Vols, there was little time to waste after having to spend months in limbo waiting for the labor situation to resolve itself before teams could contact players and offer them contracts or a chance to earn a roster spot in camp.
The abbreviated timetable for league transactions obviously will affect every player in the NFL over the coming weeks. But there's a notable difference between a draft pick or a player already under contract when compared with Walker or other teammates with newly signed deals like Nick Reveiz (Tampa Bay), LaMarcus Thompson (Atlanta), Chad Cunningham (Tennessee) and Jarrod Shaw (Cleveland).
While the former knew where it was going when a deal was reached, after months without an idea what the future might hold and without much warning, guys like Walker and Reveiz were hopping on planes and heading to new destinations within 24 hours of a resolution.
"The last couple months really were difficult," Walker said. "They were really difficult because as a competitor you just want to be able to do something and be active. When things are kind of out of your control and you really can't do too much, I mean, you just have to stay true and have trust that things are going to work out.
"So when the UFL decided to send people home and stuff like that, we were kind of bummed. But then we got excited because we knew the lockout was going to be over, so it worked out perfectly. I think just because of some of the problems the UFL was having they just said, if you get a chance and an NFL team wants to pick you up, you don't have to come back. You can if you want to, if you don't get picked up. But if you do get picked up, just go to the NFL."
Walker took a couple detours along the way, but he's finally there now.