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The Legend Of Herschel Walker

I put this piece together for Fanbase, but also wanted to add it here so those fans who don’t really know of Herschel Walker’s college and pro football career, could learn a little about him before he has his first fight, which is January 30th, on Showtime.

The story of Herschel Walker almost seems made up. Most have heard the stories about how he supposedly has never lifted a weight in his life, about how his granite-like body is the result of thousands of push-ups and sit-ups every day. The fact that it seems so far fetched only adds to the greatness of his story.

Or how about the story that he eats only one meal a day which consists of chicken soup, bread, and salad? He’s stated that it was because he was always transitioning from sport to sport and never had time to eat on a regular schedule. The eye-rolling that story inspires only adds to his legend.

He was one of the greatest college running backs ever to handle the pigskin. After finishing his collegiate career at Georgia, he held eleven NCAA records including most rushing yards as a Freshman (1,616), Sophomore (1,891), and most yards rushing in three seasons (5,259).

After just one year at Georgia, he contemplated leaving school for the Canadian Football League for a 3-year 1.5 million dollar contract.

He flirted with challenging the NFL’s rule that a college athlete couldn’t come out of school and into the draft until he had four years in school after only his Sophomore season because he thought the rule was unconstitutional.

He won the coveted Heisman Trophy after his Junior year. He then left with one year left of eligibility remaining to sign with the USFL, a new pro football league that was competing against the NFL. And this was after he told Georgia fans that he was coming back for his Senior season. Herschel Walker has always marched to the beat of his own drum.

Walker leaving Georgia early left many folks in the NFL up in arms, more than likely because they didn’t want a sure-fire superstar going to a competitive league.

Tom Landry said at the time, “We’ve got to have the players with their college educations so they can move into their careers [outside football].” Probably unbeknown to Tom at the time, of those football players drafted in the NFL even after completely four years, only 29% actually had their degrees. It also upset the college football apple cart, which was basically a four-year NFL farm system.

(In a true sense of irony, Landry’s Dallas Cowboys would be the recipient of Walker’s services after the USFL folded. The Cowboys drafted Walker in the 5th round of the 1985 draft, though Walker didn’t have any more of an education than what he left to the USFL with.)

In three USFL seasons with the New Jersey Generals, Walker rushed for 5,562 yards and 54 touchdowns. He also holds the pro football single season rushing record with 2,411 yards in 1985, though it was in 18 games, two more than NFL teams play. But that record is synonymous with the pro baseball home run records of Sadaharu Oh or Josh Gibson. It doesn’t hold much water with most American sports fans. But it does add to the legend.

He played with Dallas in 1986, running in tandem with an aging Tony Dorsett. By 1987 he had Dorsett’s job. And by 1988, he was one of the NFL’s best running backs. But by mid-1989, the Cowboys were one of the worst teams in football and new head coach Jimmy Johnson decided to trade Walker in one of the most famous trades of all-time. It was the definition of a blockbuster trade and was the second step in turning the Cowboys into the team of the 90s. Of course, the first was signing Johnson away from The University Of Miami to be the head coach.

The Cowboys turned Walker into draft picks that became Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodsen, pillars of the Super Bowl winning teams of the 90s.

Walker never fulfilled his potential in his two years in Minnesota and later in his three years in Philadelphia. He was a good player, but wasn’t the superstar that many predicted he would become when they saw him dominate college football. His career ended after one year in New York with the Giants and two more years with the Cowboys. He was relegated to back up and special teams roles, a far cry from his record breaking days in the USFL.

Walker dabbled in other things in his career, including being on the 1992 US Olympic Bobsledding team and he has a black belt in tae kwon do. But Herschel’s next career is only going to further his legend. At 47 years of age, Herschel is joining another sport, the sport of mixed martial arts.

Though a special fighter like Randy Couture has fought competitively and at a high level into his 40s, no one has started his career as late as Herschel is. It would be comparable to Mike Tyson being signed to a Canadian Football League team and playing back-up linebacker. It’s simply unprecedented.

In the fall of 2009, Walker signed with Strikeforce, the US MMA organization that is second in recognition only to the UFC. He has a fight upcoming on January 30th against a fighter of similar skill, which is to say that he’s just as much of a beginner as Walker is. But he’s also about 21 years Walker’s junior.

Though his story will far outweigh his actual accomplishments, win or lose, Walker will prove one thing. He’s still marching to the beat of his own drum and adding to his legend.

Landry quote from a 1983 copy of Sports Illustrated: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1120578/index.htm.
Walker photo added by DaMan: http://www.fanbase.com/member/DaMan

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19 thoughts on “The Legend Of Herschel Walker

  1. very interesting read! I actually had no idea how Walker is. All I knew is that he played pro football and won the heisman trophy. This gave me a new perspective on his debut!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know that many young fans probably never saw him play much football. That was my focus, both to show how great of an athlete he was and is, and also how odd his career turned out.

    Thanks for the nice comments.

  3. This MMA thing is still a huge mistake in my opinion. His trainer can claim that he WOULD be the best MMA fighter ever if he started young, but I’m just not buying it.

    He is going to get wrecked. Maybe not this fight, but soon.

  4. As for the MMA thing, he may get wrecked, but losing isn’t bad. Everyone loses. If he’s challenging himself, it’s good for him, and good pub for Strikeforce.

  5. It may not be very good publicity if he gets wrecked. Strikeforce is legitimate enough to not have the whole freakshow attention that this could get.

    I don’t want this to be a Canseco type beat down.

  6. It won’t be Canseco. Canseco didn’t train. Walker was with one of the best camps in the world for three hard months and he’s been working his rear end off.

    Check out this link – http://bit.ly/a5JSYL

  7. Wow GG thanks for that story. I followed Walker’s entire career, from his days in college then playing with the old Generals(i live in NY) to playing with the Cowboys(my favorite team), he had a awesome career, it was great remembering the good old days.

    I dont follow the MMA but i wish him well in that, I hope he doesnt get hurt. I will try to catch his fight on showtime. You continue to amaze me GG with all your stories that you post here on ur blog….. 🙂

  8. Hey Lostie,

    Thanks for the kind words. I remember the USFL days as well, but I wasn’t as connected to that league as I was to the NFL. But I do remember the tremendous athletic ability.


  9. The difference between this and the Canseco thing is that with Canseco everyone knew it was a joke and treated it as such. Canseco himself said he had no idea what he was doing. Choi knew it to and thus went easy on him. This is being promoted as a legitimate fight. That worries me greatly.

    As I have said before, Iknow absolutely nothing about American Football: I have never watched a full match in my entire life. But this is an ill advised career switch. This dude is older than Randy Couture, and he plans on going into full contact fighting completely cold. I can’t help but think this is a really really bad idea. I just remember what happened to that guy who was on the dynamite usa show, Johnnie Morton. This fight gives me the shudders.

    On a cheerier note, my boys Melvin and Zaromskis are finally getting their shot in Strikeforce.

  10. Not to say that the guy who Morton fought was a world beater (your boy Melvin tore him up), but I have to think Strikeforce will be a little bit better at making sure Hersch doesn’t look terrible.

    And really, I think that Hersch just wants to test himself. And what happened with Morton? He was KO’d and stopped fighting. If that happens to Hersch, he at least can say that he tried it and tested himself.

    I’m very much looking forward to this show even if I expect the Walker and Lashley fights to be bad. I want to see Zaromskis and Melvin live and will be looking forward to Cyborg being savage-like.

  11. Morton was also the recipient of one of the worst knockouts I have ever seen in mma. I just don’t like the risks in this one.

    But that being said, he is the betting favourite. I assume that means the guys he is fighting is pretty clueless. Some weird odds on this card actually. Manhoef is the favourite against Lawler. Im hoping he can pull it off, and I think he has a really good shot, but I definitely didn’t expect him to go in favorite.

    I thought if the bookmakers were going to give one of my guys a shot, it would have been Marius, but they seem to be writing him off a bit.

  12. Just in the Twitter world, I’ve been hearing a lot of “Zaromskis is overrated”, which is why the money is going on Nick. This will be the first Zaromskis fight I’ve ever seen, so I have no idea what to think. And it’s not like Nick doesn’t get hit.

    I’m definitely looking forward to Lawler/Manhoef.

  13. To put it bluntly, if this goes to the ground Marius is absolutely screwed.

    I like his chances though because Nick doesn’t realize when he is out of his depth on the feet, and as you said, his defense is leaky. Marius has this scary fluency to how he mixes his kicks in with his boxing. I can see Diaz walking right into one, and he wont even see it coming.

  14. Well Walker certainly did not embarrass himself. You were right G.G. Hopefully his next fight is on the CBS show.

  15. I’m not even sure if he fights again. But it will be interesting if he does. I don’t think they can move him quite as quickly as they will Lashley. I wouldn’t mind that being it for Hersch.

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