Stead became a Marine. When he returned, they married and reared three children – Charmaine, Nikeria and Travon – in a manner befitting a family in which some consider the ex-Marine the second-toughest parent.
"For Travon, having those two was critical," Elder says. "Not that I've coached a lot of Travons, but you see a lot of kids get lost because they don't have both parents – or they don't have somebody there that's keeping a thumb on them all the time."
The thumb was always there. The Walkers' modest home – UGA flag off the front porch, Jaguars banner at the end of the drive – is stuffed with pictures and diplomas documenting all three children's accomplishments. Love and family pride were plentiful. As for praise…
"I never tell him good job," Lasonia says of Travon, and Stead adds: "Absolutely not."
Neither smile as they say it and Lasonia explains: "That was a way to just keep him grounded, to not tell him, 'You played awesome.' We never really tell him that. Maybe every now and then, but not often. I think that's what has kept him grounded. I think it worked…
"I just want him to stay grounded, to stay focused, keep God in his life first and just go out and be all that he can be, be the best that he can be."
Then again, no one had to tell Travon he was good. Not only was he always the biggest in his class – and his sports leagues – he almost always was the best. He started football at age seven and played quarterback, running back … whatever position the team needed. Lasonia says other parents complained because he was so much better than the other kids.
"So yeah, he was good," she says.
Not that, that meant privileges on Traylor. Discipline mattered for Travon. So did rules. One: No grade lower than a B. "You had to stay on him; if you didn't, he kind of slacked," Lasonia says. Another rule involved commitment and effort, with Stead saying Travon "had the opportunity to pick and choose" his sports – with a condition.
"Whatever he did pick, he was going to do a hundred percent plus; you're just not going to play around with it," Stead says.
The sisters influenced, too – as older sisters do. "I have to say both of them toughened me up," Travon says, and family influence was everywhere. His cousin, Mario Cromer, now an Upson Sheriff, lived on Traylor, too. Though older, Travon says Cromer "still got out there with me to play ball … you know … what boys do."
"It's all community," Walker says. "Everybody helped raise me."
If bringing up Travon was a community thing, Mom and Dad were the heart. And while Stead is as tough as his background suggests, it was clear who Travon considered the tougher of the two.
"We'd just say, 'We're going to call mama," Darrell Lockhart, Walker's basketball coach at Upson-Lee, says. "Don't say, 'I'm going to tell your daddy.' You say, 'Mama,' and it was, 'Don't do that. All right coach. I'll be right.' Mama controls it right there."
Adds Walker with a smile, "I'm a mama's boy, obviously. I don't want my mama to see no wrong in me at all. My mom, she and I have to talk every day. My dad, he'll give me my break, but I'm just used to talking to my mom one time every day."