SANTA CLARA – Delanie Walker, who lost an aunt and uncle when their car was hit by an alleged drunken driver hours after the Super Bowl in February, said Wednesday he was surprised to hear former 49ers teammate Aldon Smith was involved in another DUI incident last month.
Walker also noted Smith's issues fit a pattern.
"You've got to remember, a lot of us come into this league not having a dime (to) our name," Walker said on a conference call from Nashville. "And then you sign million-dollar contracts. I mean, you go out and kind of lose your mind a little bit. And I think it takes time."
This past offseason was a time of change for Walker, a 2006 draft pick who played in the shadow of tight end Vernon Davis while with the 49ers.
Walker signed a free-agent contract with the Titans, whom the 49ers will face in Nashville on Sunday. And he became an anti-drunken-driving crusader after the aunt who raised him, Alice Young, was killed along with her husband, Bryan, when they pulled to the side of a highway outside New Orleans after watching Walker play in the Super Bowl.
According to police reports, a 26-year-old woman struck the couple's car from behind at more than 100 mph, causing both vehicles to burst into flames.
The driver was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of driving while intoxicated and one count of reckless operation of a motor vehicle.
Walker has become an active member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and is hosting a dinner to benefit MADD on Monday in Nashville. One of his goals is to eliminate drunken-driving incidents among NFL players. He said most players have issues with self-control in their first two or three years after becoming professionals, when they suddenly have money and fame.
"Then they start to realize, you're a role model," Walker said. "You've got to be a bigger person. You've got to separate yourselves from people that put you in that situation."
Asked if he was surprised about Smith, who drove through a residential front yard in San Jose early Sept. 20 with an alleged blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit, Walker gave a mixed answer.
"Aldon's a young guy. He's a little wild dude," Walker said. "He's kind of wild. I didn't think that something like that would happen during the season. I would think that he wouldn't get into any more trouble after what was going on, but I don't know. I don't know how he's changed. I haven't been out there in San Francisco. I haven't talked to him in a while. It kind of did surprise me a little bit."
Walker said he tried to call Smith, 24, after the incident, but the linebacker had turned off his phone. Smith is in the fourth week of an in-patient treatment program he entered three days after his arrest.
The 49ers have said they don't know when Smith, the team's leader in sacks the past two seasons, will rejoin the team, and there's a possibility he'll miss the entire season.
Smith was arrested for DUI in Miami Beach in January 2012, a charge that later was reduced to reckless driving. He also was charged with three felony gun violations this month after three semi-automatic rifles were found at his home following a house party run amok in June 2012.
Smith and Walker are named in a civil lawsuit filed by two men who were shot at that party. The suit alleges the former teammates shot a handgun in the air to break up the out-of-control party. The men were later shot when party-goers were leaving; ballistics tests showed neither was shot by Smith or Walker.
Walker missed training camp with Tennessee after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Still, he ranks third on the squad in catches and receiving yards and has as many drops – a problem last year in San Francisco – as touchdowns: two.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Walker has been everything the Titans hoped for when they signed him to a four-year, $17.5 million deal in March.
Munchak said he also welcomes Walker's mission against drunken driving.
"You want these guys to be difference-makers on the field and off the field," he said. " He is a great example to the other guys here. That's why the community gets excited about their team. They see that you're giving back to community."
Read Matthew Barrows' blogs at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen to his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.