Adrian Walker has felt a calling to help people since he was a child. Now he’s studying to become a registered nurse, possibly working in the neonatal intensive care unit.

At the same time, Walker is a running back on the University of Texas Permian Basin football team.

Originally from Corpus Christi, Walker and his four siblings were raised by a single mother. He plans to graduate from the university in May of 2022 with a bachelor of science degree in nursing.

Walker broke his leg his senior year and lost all of his scholarships except the one to UTPB.

“I had never even heard of Odessa, but I watched ‘Friday Night Lights,’” Walker said.

And he has visited Ratliff Stadium still on crutches after breaking his leg.

UTPB nursing student Adrian Walker poses for a photo Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in UTPB’s nursing simulation lab inside the Mesa Building. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

The thing that struck him was how nice the people were. They opened doors for him and stayed behind him to make sure he didn’t slip when he was going into a restaurant once in the rain.

“It was genuine, you know, and I knew that I was gonna fit right in,” Walker said.

Walker always looked out for his family, especially his sister and grandmother.

“Growing up, it’s always kind of been a passion. It’s always seemed like I would be there for someone. …”

What finalized Walker’s decision to choose nursing was a party he went to where someone was beaten up and no one at the party did anything to help him. He didn’t understand how no one would help the victim.

UTPB nursing student Adrian Walker poses for a photo Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in UTPB’s nursing simulation lab inside the Mesa Building. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

The connection between football and nursing is that he can help people who are hurting.

“I like to think of it like that way, you know, and I know some people get hurt, too, and they go to the trainers and I will go check in on them …,” Walker said.

They’ll ask if he knows what’s wrong with them and he doesn’t, but he’ll ask about their signs and symptoms and history.

“… That’s just the nurse in me. I’ve just got to figure out if there’s something you know deeper than what you think. Is it just a sprain or something like that. So that was like Nurse Walker, always coming to the rescue. … It just makes me feel good. I feel like I connect more with the strength and conditioning coach and all the trainers because I guess none of that stuff really excites other athletes. …,” Walker said.

When he talked to someone before he arrived at UTPB about the nursing program, Walker said they told him it was the best. But he said everyone tells you that when you’re being recruited.

UTPB nursing student Adrian Walker poses for a photo Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in UTPB’s nursing simulation lab inside the Mesa Building. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

“But actually being here and being with all the professors here, I realized that they care more about you as a person, rather than as a student. So there was one time (when) I was having a hard time with my family and I had to go back home. … We were still going through class and when my professor, she was just like, I understand. You do what you have to do. Make sure you’re on Zoom with us and just make sure you … stay on top of everything. When she told me that I realized that they care about my health as well … I just feel like they’re really caring people and they’re very genuine people and that’s people I want to be around.”

Currently, Walker wants to become a NICU nurse. He wants to see a baby survive and thrive.

“I feel like that’s why we go to all the departments to see what best suits us. But taking care of my sister, I realized that I just I love kids. I feel like I can get a baby to stop crying. … I’ll pick him or her up and I’ll just start dancing and the baby is loving it and I’m loving it. So I feel like that’s always what I want to do,” Walker said.

He is interning at Midland Memorial Hospital and hopes to stay in the area when he graduates.

“… It does feel like home. I do feel like I’m establishing so much comfort and knowledge just from there,” Walker said.

Jesica Naiman, academic chair of the School of Nursing, helps prepare students to take the national nursing exam.

UTPB nursing student Adrian Walker attempts to log into UTPB’s nursing simulation lab’s medicine storage system following an interview Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at UTPB. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

“I really think he stands out as a student who cares about his peers. You can see him being very considerate of everybody in the room. I think he’ll be a phenomenal nurse because … nursing is the science of caring and he’s got that skill down …,” Naiman said.

Naiman conducts bootcamp study groups with her students to prepare them for the NCLEX exam. She checks in with them every week until they take the test.

“It’s very important to me that the students feel that they are valued and that they go into their exams with confidence. In order to do that, they need to be confident in what they know. And so it’s very important to me that I support them and get them to that place where they have that confidence,” Naiman added.

Walker said he feels that confidence and knowledge.

“My grandma has diabetes. My dad had diabetes. My auntie has diabetes … among other things. It’s just good to not be looking from the outside anymore,” Walker said.