As birthdays go, this one was much more complicated than Vance Walker was looking for.
But at least there was a celebration at the end of the day for the former Fort Mill High standout, as he got to stay close to home, and his adopted home, while fulfilling his NFL dream.
Walker (6-2, 305 pound), a defensive tackle from Georgia Tech, was chosen with the first pick of the seventh round (210th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons.
"I couldn't have asked for a better place," Walker said Sunday night. "Now I can just concentrate on football instead of having to worry about learning a new city and all that."
"We've been in Atlanta celebrating," Janet Walker, Vance's mother, said Monday. "We're truly excited and feel so blessed. We're so proud of Vance and we're truly appreciative of the way Fort Mill has treated him."
Prior to the draft, Walker had heard teams saying he might go in the third or fourth round. But some injuries during his senior year and the pre-draft process caused his stock to sink a bit. He was still hoping for the fifth or sixth round, but the longer the day went, his hopes began to fade.
By mid-afternoon, he was frustrated enough he left the draft party at his agent's Atlanta home and began to drive back to his apartment in suburban Duluth.
"I had to get out of there and do something fun," he said. "I just couldn't sit there and watch anymore."
The plan was to hit a nearby Jillian's and bowl a few games, but before he could rent shoes, the Falcons called.
"It was a very stressful day," he said. "A very crazy day, but it worked out. As soon as I started driving, naturally the phone rang."
Walker's still not a lock to make the roster, but is encouraged that what the Falcons are asking of him is similar to what he did at Georgia Tech. They're asking him to play the "three-technique" tackle spot, which involves using his quickness to try to get to the quarterback. He displayed plenty of that his junior year at Georgia Tech, when he posted 8.5 sacks.
He said that when working out with Falcons coaches and scouts, some of the plays they asked him to draw up were similar to things he had run at Georgia Tech, so he at least feels comfortable in his scheme and surroundings.
And though it's not when he hoped he'd go, the where helped make it a 22nd birthday he'll never forget.
"As presents go, this is pretty good," he said. "This, and having my family around to share it with me makes it all worthwhile."
Walker, a 2005 graduate of Fort Mill High School, was an academic star as well as football star during his prep career. As a senior at Fort Mill, Walker was named to the Charlotte Observer's All-Observer first team, among other honors. This past season, Walker was a first team All-ACC selection for the second straight year and was invited to play in the Senior Bowl.
He was also a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation's top defensive player.
Walker recorded the first Yellow Jacket safety since the 2004 season in a September game against Boston College. In addition, he ranks in the top-20 in Georgia Tech school history with his 13 sacks and 26.5 tackles for lost yards.
Freelance reporter Mike Laughlin contributed to this story.