The image many Bay Area college football fans of a certain age have of Wesley Walker is of the ultimate deep threat, an impossibly fast wide receiver for Cal in the mid-1970s.

It might be more than a little sobering, then, to learn of his current physical state.

Jeff Roberts of The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) wrote earlier this year that Walker, 57, has been unable to feel his feet for 25 years and suffers from what Walkers calls "constant, wrenching" pain running up his arms and deep inside his hands, which shake from nerve damage.

This, reports Roberts, is the result of injuries Walker suffered during his often spectacular football career, which included four seasons at Cal (1973-76) and 13 in the NFL with the New York Jets (1977-89).

According to Roberts, Walker suffers from almost daily sleeplessness, which he combats by watching movies in the dark.

"I've sat in bed, praying 'Jesus, God, would you make the pain go away?' " Walker told The Record. "I just don't want to go through this anymore. I would give anything just for a day not to have this happen."

Roberts wrote that Walker took hits in 1986 and 1989 that left him temporarily paralyzed and are responsible for much of his pain and weakness. Spinal surgery five years ago required a plate and 14 screws to rebuild his neck, and he now needs back surgery.

Walker told The Record that he resorted to drinking but recently stopped when his three adult children expressed concern.


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"They don't understand," Walker said. "It's not taking the pain away. It's just making me not think about it."

His daughter Taylor Walker told The Record: "It's just a constant struggle because he's always in pain."

The newspaper said Walker needs injections to walk and is experiencing short-term memory and enunciation difficulties.

"I never thought it would be like this," Walker told The Record. "If I knew I would end up like this, hell no. Not on your life (would I have played). I'd find another career."

Walker, who was inducted into the Cal football Hall of Fame in 1992, set an NCAA record for highest average gain per catch in a career (minimum 75 catches) at 25.7 yards. His best game came against San Jose State in 1976 when he had eight receptions for a school-record 289 yards.

The Jets selected Walker 33rd overall (second round) in the 1977 draft, and he caught 71 touchdown passes and averaged 19.0 yards per catch in his NFL career, making two Pro Bowls.

Those exploits came at a high price.