When Brett Walker was 15 years old, he fractured his humerus at a football game.
The pain was excruciating, and it worsened when he got treatment for the injury.
"I was like, 'There has got to be another way,'" he said. "So, at 15, I decided I’m going to go find that better way."
Walker, a native of Culbertson, Mont., went to the University of Mary in Bismarck, where he studied physical therapy. He graduated with his bachelor's and master's degrees in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
Now, he's listed as the physical therapist for the Chicago White Sox.
This week, Walker visited with physical therapy students and his old instructors and professors as a way to give back to his alma mater — and to show students hard work pays off.
"There's so many people that helped me along the way, and they have no idea," Walker said.
This is his first trip back to Bismarck. He's been a physical therapist for the White Sox since 2013, and, prior to that, he interned for the Minnesota Twins.
With the White Sox, each year Walker spends six months in Chicago and six months in Glendale, Ariz., for spring training. He also travels with the team, spending 15 days a month on the road.
Walker has an important job: Preparing multimillion-dollar players to get back onto the field after an injury. He works with two athletic trainers and a strength coach, as well as physicians and coaching staff.
Despite the enormous pressure on the professional athletes he treats, Walker said the baseball players are just like "normal people."
"If I’m working with a guy who's out of work because of his back, he’s just as interested in getting back to work as my baseball player who can’t throw a baseball right now," he said. "They’re equally as driven to get back (to work)."
On Wednesday, Walker stepped into Jason Hogan's kinesiology class for first-year physical therapy students. Earlier this week, he gave presentations to students about how he made it through college and landed a job working for Major League Baseball.
Students in the kinesiology class on Wednesday were taking range-of-motion measurements, using a goniometer, a protractor-looking device, which is used to measure range of motion joint angles of the body. Walker, who worked with students Seth Meide and David Vollan, said the measurements can be used as a baseline, if an athlete were to get hurt. He also gave tips to the students, including how he works with White Sox players.
"It’s actually, I think, super inspiring, just to know that he came from the University of Mary. He’s from a small town, and hearing his presentation, he told us how he got to where he is," Meide said.
Occasionally, the university will bring in speakers and alumni to speak with students as a way for them to meet people in their anticipated professions. Walker's visit is unique, too, because Hogan knew Walker at U-Mary, because he was a year ahead of him.
“It’s one thing if I say it once, but then when they hear another person who’s top of their field to say the same thing, (it) kind of gets hammered down," Hogan said.
Walker said the reason he came back to visit was to encourage students to stay diligent in their studies.
"I wasn't the best student in the world," he said. "But the thing is (to continue) to grow as a person and keep pushing forward."