Former high school football standout and celebrated Michigan Wolverines fan Dametrius "Meechie" Walker died Friday after a two-year battle with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, the school announced.
He is survived by his mother, Leona Bell, and son, Kymere.
Walker was a standout defensive end at Muskegon High School in Muskegon, Michigan and had garnered attention and scholarship offers from Kentucky, Michigan State and a few MAC schools. He was proud of that accomplishment, but his dream was to one day play for Michigan.
"The team, the coaching staff, just the way they did things," Walker told ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski in October. "The way they carry themselves, I just love that about them."
As Walker was moving closer to his goal of receiving a scholarship offer from the Wolverines, his entire world changed. In November 2020, after noticing a bump on his knee, Walker was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
He endured surgery and nine months of chemotherapy, but the cancer returned in 2021. By April 2021, the tumor had grown too large and doctors amputated his left leg. Despite the removal of Walker's tumor and his leg, the cancer continued to spread.
The news that the former high school football player was fighting for his life eventually spread to the Michigan football team and head coach Jim Harbaugh. The team invited Walker to practice on Aug. 13, 2022, to meet the team and feel the joy of being a part of the Wolverines program.
"Meechie was hurting so bad that day," Bell said to Wojciechowsi. "His whole body was just in excruciating pain and he just smiled like nothing ever happened. Like he wasn't even in pain."
His mother called it the miracle of Michigan, saying that his Michigan visit woke him up despite the pain and deterioration he had experienced in the waning months.
Our friend. Our brother. Our teammate.— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) December 9, 2022
We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of Dametrius Walker. Meechie was an inspiration to every member of our program and the Michigan family as a whole. He will be missed by so many. pic.twitter.com/jFXEMPFgbp
He lost 70 pounds and slipped in and out of consciousness on a regular basis. He was fighting every day and told Wojciechowski that he knew he had to be strong for his two-year-old son.
"I try my hardest to show him that Daddy is in pain," Walker said at the time. "But Daddy will always love you and I will always be here until the day I die."
Walker was invited to attend Michigan's game against Maryland on Sep. 24. Donning a signed Michigan jersey with his nickname, Meechie, on the back, he was wheeled onto the field as he was announced over the loudspeaker.
The fans had heard his story and knew what it meant for him to be considered as part of the Michigan team. Wiping tears away from his eyes, he scanned the crowd and waved with over 100,000 fans cheering for him.
There's nothing quite like experiencing a game in the Big House, and we're proud to share that experience with Meechie!#GoBlue pic.twitter.com/ydw8h7XWZ6— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) October 22, 2022
Harbaugh said the team had dedicated that game, which they won 34-27, to Walker. He was given the game ball in the locker room after the game and the team celebrated the victory as if he had always been a part of the team. Walker lost his battle with cancer on Dec. 9, and an outpour of memories and heartfelt messages were shared on social media by teammates, coaches and Michigan players.
Punter Brad Robbins tweeted, "Love you Meechie," with a statement about the loss of his friend.
"We lost a true embodiment of what it means to be a Michigan Man. Meechie and I texted weekly about his experience and outlook on life," Robbins wrote. "Whenever he was in our facility and around our team, he was so positive and always had a huge smile on his face."