- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

NEW ORLEANS Four months ago, 29-year-old Ken Walter's future didn't look too bright. He was out of work while his wife, Chante, was five months pregnant with their first child.
Tomorrow Walter will punt for New England in Super Bowl XXXVI, six days after the induced birth of son Ken Jr., which followed the Patriots' AFC Championship victory in Pittsburgh by 29 hours. So it has been quite a turnaround for Walter, a ballboy for the Cleveland Browns when New England coach Bill Belichick ran that team.
Walter made the Carolina Panthers' roster as an undrafted rookie out of Kent State in 1997 and finished third in the NFL with 29 punts inside the 20-yard line and third in the NFC with a 42.2-yard net average.
The next season, Walter was second in the league with a 38.1-yard net. But his 1999 and 2000 seasons weren't as good, and Walter was waived last April 1. He underwent minor knee surgery and wasn't invited to any team's training camp after New England decided his leg wasn't up to practicing two times a day.
"There were a lot of things going through my mind when the season started and I didn't have a job," Walter said. "I wondered if we should pack up and leave Charlotte for Cleveland, where my family was. I wondered if I should go into the landscaping business, as I had been planning to do after football."
But then the Patriots called Oct.17. Walter wound up leading the AFC with a 38.1-yard net average and being a key part of the NFL's stingiest punt coverage unit.
"You can't say enough about the job that Ken has done," said New England special teams coach Brad Seely, who held the same job with the Panthers in 1997 and 1998. "Ken doesn't kick it as far as some guys do, but he does a great job of putting the ball up high and giving us a chance to cover it. We were fortunate that Ken was out there when we needed a guy. He was the first guy we called when age caught up to [40-year-old incumbent] Lee Johnson."
Walter was determined both to punt last Sunday in the biggest game of his five-year NFL career and be on hand for the birth. He did, but it was a close call.
"Chante's due date was last Wednesday," Walter said. "We were concerned that if she went into labor on Saturday night or Sunday that I wouldn't be there, but she understood that I needed to play in the game for our future. After we won, she was so emotional that she had a few contractions, but she held on and he held on.
"Coach said I should go home and meet the team here on Tuesday night. I had an 8 o'clock flight to Charlotte. She had to waddle in and use the restroom, but she picked me up at the airport. We got back home and she had some contractions that night. She was induced on schedule at 6:45 a.m. Monday and after 13 hours of labor, he was born. And now I'm at the Super Bowl. What a roller coaster."

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