CHARLOTTE - Quarterback P.J. Walker's 2020 has been a story of "what's next?" When one door's closed, another's opened, and he's always seemed to rise to the occasion.
For those not familiar with the New Jersey native's story, Walker was one of the standout players in the XFL. After COVID-19 forced the league to end its season abruptly, the MVP favorite had no choice but to ask, "What's next?"
During the NFL offseason, Walker found a home in Charlotte where he was signed to compete for the backup job behind Teddy Bridgewater.
As the Panthers' team photographer, I've had the unique opportunity to watch Walker every day at practice. I've watched him get better day after day as he takes reps against the starting defense.
When Bridgewater was listed as a game-time decision with a knee injury suffered against Tampa Bay, another door opened for Walker. This time he got the call to start against the Lions.
Pregame seemed to be business as usual. Walker warmed up with fellow backup Will Grier and quarterbacks coach Jake Peetz.
After receiving the news that Walker had been named Sunday's starter, I shifted my focus to him, knowing that every photo would help tell the story of his first NFL start.
One of my favorite shots from Walker's day came early during walkouts for pregame.
I set up my Godox strobe at a low angle, and I was able to capture this cool shot of Walker and his linemen walking through the tunnel to the field.
When the action started, Walker, who is known to make plays outside of the pocket, had a couple of cool throws on the run.
When you have a quarterback who likes to make plays on the run, you not only have to focus on him in stride, but you also have to anticipate where he may throw the ball when he's in motion.
Another bonus of having a scrambling quarterback is knowing you're going to get an electrifying play if he breaks out of the pocket.
My favorite photo from this game came when Walker broke the pocket and started to make his way downfield, where he laid a solid stiff arm on a Lions' defender.
With the help of some big plays by the defense and special teams, Walker led the Panthers to a 20-0 win.
During a normal year, I'd follow Walker from the field to the locker room, where I would photograph him celebrating with his teammates. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, my journey with him stopped at the locker room door where he entered to celebrate his first NFL victory.
View photos of P.J. Walker's 2020 season so far as he won his first career NFL start in Week 11.