Practice in the morning, business calls in the afternoon, a basketball game in the evening. For Derrick Walker, the 25-year-old vocal and statistical leader of the Nebraska men’s basketball team, that’s a typical day.
The 6-foot-9 Walker founded his own trucking company in 2019. Aptly, it is named Tall Boy Trucking. Along with basketball, the company has become a focal point of Walker’s life. He also has been a leader off the court as well as in the community during his time in Lincoln. Walker said has always thought about how he can make an impact in his life beyond basketball. When Tall Boy Trucking was born, that was at the forefront of his mind.
“I was sitting and I just had a moment, and I was like, ‘What could I be doing to potentially create a household name for myself that doesn’t involve basketball?’” Walker said. “Because (basketball) is something you aren’t as relevant for.”
Tall Boy Trucking, at its roots, was established as a way to provide financial stability for Walker and his family.
“Everyone wants to buy mom a nice car and take care of the family,” he said. “So that was also one of (the main) reasons why I started.”
Since his Nebraska debut in 2020, Walker has developed into the heart and soul for coach Fred Hoiberg’s Huskers, and a fan favorite for his hard work, dedication, and toughness. These are all traits that have translated well for Walker in the other areas of his life.
A student-athlete at the age of 25 was quite rare before COVID-19. But the virus offered an unprecedented free year of eligibility for anyone who competed in the 2020-21 season. That meant a sixth year of collegiate basketball for the 2022-23 season.
In between long road trips, workouts, and the grind of a full basketball season, Walker has figured out a way to balance being a business owner and Division-I athlete. A lot of the company’s work is done over the phone, and he uses that to communicate and coordinate whatever needs to be done in the day-to-day operations.
“Whether it’s sending the truck to the repair shop, or whatever it may be, it can all be over the phone,” Walker said.
Johnny Chapple, a longtime friend of Walker’s, has seen him grow as a person, basketball player, and business owner.
“I was there last fall when he bought his first truck and when his business first took off,” Chapple said.
Chapple, who now works as a media relations intern for the Kansas City Chiefs, said he knows Walker as well as anybody. The two of them met in 2012 at Raytown High School in Kansas City and have been close ever since.
“We became good friends the following year and practically spent every day together,” Chapple said.
Chapple served as an intern in the communications and media relations office at Nebraska in 2021-22. Working at Nebraska offered the two old friends an opportunity to cross paths again. Along with Walker’s dog Dynasty, the two shared an apartment together in Lincoln.
“Living with Derrick was great,” Chapple said. “Considering that we had practically spent every day together in high school, it made it feel just like old times.”
Chapple also said that Walker is one of the hardest workers he knows.
“I’ve always noticed that when Derrick wants something, he’s going to do whatever he can to get it,” Chapple said.
Another person who Walker met in high school was Jonas Bailey. He said he remembers working long hours at Worlds of Fun with Walker and knows him as a hard worker. According to Bailey, on days during the summer when there wasn’t football practice, the pair regularly worked from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m.
As long as Bailey and Chapple have known Walker, they both said that he has always been about working as hard as he can to achieve whatever he needs to do. Bailey and Chapple also said that got him to the position he is today.
“There were times that the group would want to go out and find something to do and he would skip out so he could continue to perfect his craft,” Chapple said. “His priorities have always been aligned.”
Walker, a first-generation student, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2021 with a degree in Child, Youth and Family studies and is now working on a master’s degree.
He is also a two-time member of the Tom Osborne All-Citizenship team, and a two time Big Ten Academic All-American.
For Walker, his work off the court is just as important. He has participated in many camps and worked in the community. Walker traveled to the inaugural Big Life Series trip to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama last July. While at Tennessee from from 2017-19, he was a participant in the Joint Student-Athlete Leadership Council in Birmingham, Alabama.
Out of all of these experiences, Walker said his favorite work outside of basketball came in the summer of 2022 when he organized a Special Olympics Basketball clinic in Lincoln. The clinic involved over 40 participants.
“That was kind of special to me, just because we do so much for all sorts of people,” Walker said. “I just felt like those people were kind of overlooked or just not given the attention that they deserve.”
Walker wanted more.
He was eighth in the country in field goal percentage in 2022 (68.3 percent), but he was not satisfied with his output. With the opportunity to come back for another year on the table, he weighed his options. Trucking will always be there for Walker. However, basketball has always been his main priority and will continue to be moving forward.
“I definitely want to continue basketball,” he said. “I want to be a pro.”
At the rate he is going, he is setting himself up to do just that. He is enjoying the best season of his career this season. With one game left in the regular season, Walker has averaged 13.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.
His leadership skills have also been on display for Nebraska. Many players on the roster are seven years younger than Walker.
“Those guys are sponges and listening and learning,” he said. “They look up to me, just because of the experience I have.”
As Walker’s career comes to a close, he reminisces on the kind of legacy he wants to leave.
“I just hope I’m looked back at as a good role model for future athletes to come through Nebraska,” he said.