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Herschel Walker
Herschel Walker.jpg
Walker in May 2004.
Running back
Jersey #(s)
Born March 3, 1962 (1962-03-03) (age 48)
Wrightsville, Georgia
Career information
Year(s) 19861997
NFL Draft 1985 / Round: 5 / Pick: 114
College Georgia
Professional teams
Career stats
Rushing yards 8,225
Average 4.2
Rushing Touchdowns 61
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Herschel Junior Walker (born March 3, 1962) is a professional MMA fighter, and former American football running back in the United States Football League for the New Jersey Generals and in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and the New York Giants.

Walker attended and played college football at the University of Georgia, where he was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 1982. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.


Early life

Walker was born in Wrightsville, Georgia to John Willis and Christine Walker. He was raised as one of seven children in a blue collar family.[1]


High school (1975–1979)

Walker played for the Johnson County High School Trojans in Wrightsville, Georgia from 1975–1979. In 1979, he rushed for 3,167 yards, helping the Trojans to their only state championship.[2] He was awarded the first Dial Award for the national high-school scholar-athlete of the year in 1979.

College career (1980–1983)

Walker played running back for the University of Georgia, where he was an All-American and winner of the 1982 Heisman Trophy. During his freshman season in 1980, Walker set the NCAA freshman rushing record and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He played a major role in helping Georgia go undefeated that year, and win the National Championship with a victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.[3] He would go on to win the Heisman in his junior year.[4] In 1999, Walker was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.[5]

Professional football career (1983–1997)

United States Football League (1983–1985)

In the formation of the United States Football League, Walker saw an opportunity to do something then forbidden by NFL rules, namely, to turn professional after the end of his junior season rather than wait for his collegiate class to graduate the year later (senior or 4th year). He also sought to choose where he would play professionally, as he felt he could make considerable money from product endorsements; as he was quoted on one occasion: "I don't know if I would want to play in the NFL unless it was for the two New York teams or the Dallas Cowboys."

With endorsement considerations in mind, Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in 1983, owned by Oklahoma oilman J. Walter Duncan, who after the 1983 season sold the team to real-estate mogul Donald Trump. (As it turned out, however, Walker attracted only one major advertising deal, in a joint promotion by McDonald's and athletic-shoe manufacturer Adidas; in the ad, Walker's line was, "First the Big Mac meal—then the Adidas deal," referring to discount coupons on Adidas merchandise that accompanied the purchase of a Big Mac at McDonald's.)[citation needed] In order to circumvent the league-mandated $1.8-million salary cap, Walker signed a personal services contract with Duncan (later compensated by Trump) to the protest of no one, as the other owners appreciated Walker's name value to the league. Similar arrangements were made later when other big-name college stars signed with the league. Although this move was challenged in court, Walker and the USFL prevailed, and Walker began play with the Generals.

He went on to win the USFL rushing title in 1983 and 1985 and in the latter year also gaining over 4,000 yards in total offense. He holds the professional football record for single-season rushing yards with 2,411 yards in 1985, averaging 5.50 yards per attempt in 18 games. In his USFL career, Walker had 5,562 yards rushing in 1,143 carries, averaging 4.87 yards per carry, during his three seasons with the Generals. In 1983, he rushed for 1,812 yards in 18 games. In his second pro season, his rushing yardage dropped to 1,339, but he caught passes for more than 800 yards giving him over 2,100 yards in total offense.[6]

National Football League (1986–1997)

The Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League, suspecting that the USFL was not going to last, acquired Walker's NFL rights by drafting him in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft. When the USFL in fact succumbed after its technically successful, but financially fruitless antitrust suit against the NFL in 1986, Walker went to play for the Cowboys, eventually establishing himself as a premier NFL running back with two consecutive Pro-Bowl seasons (1987 and 1988).

In 1989, at the height of his NFL career, the Cowboys traded Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a total of five players (LB Jesse Solomon, DB Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson, LB David Howard, DE Alex Stewart) and six draft picks (which led to Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodson). This was judged to be one of the turning points in the rise of the Cowboys to the top echelon of the NFL. Nicknamed the "HWT" (Herschel Walker Trade), Walker's trade was widely perceived as an exceptionally poor move considering what the Vikings had to give up in order to get him, and remains one of the most frequently vilified roster moves of the team's history. The Vikings coaches reluctantly accepted Walker after the trade and never totally used the tool they had been given. says, "Walker was never used properly by the coaching brain trust."[7] "Herschel the Turkey," a mocking "honor" given out by the Star Tribune newspaper to particularly inept or disgraceful Minnesota sports personalities, is named for him.[8]

Walker played for the Vikings for two and a half years, never amassing 1,000 rushing yards in a season. His rights were then acquired by the Philadelphia Eagles, and, subsequently, the New York Giants. Eventually, he was re-acquired by the Cowboys, where he was used not only as a running back but as a flanker and other offensive positions as well. In addition to running and catching passes, Walker was also often used to return kickoffs throughout his career.

Career overview

Walker rushed for 5,562 yards in his USFL career.[9] His combined rushing numbers for the USFL and the NFL (13,787 yards) would place him 5th All-Time on the NFL's career rushing list.[10]

In 12 NFL seasons, Walker gained 8,225 rushing yards, 4,859 receiving yards, and 5,084 kickoff-return yards.[11] This gave him 18,168 total combined net yards, ranking him second among the NFL's all-time leaders in total yardage at the time of his retirement; as of the start of the 2007 NFL season, ten years after his retirement, he still ranks eighth.[12] He also scored 84 touchdowns: 61 rushing, 21 receiving and two kick off returns for touchdowns.[11] Walker is the only player to have 10,000+ yards from scrimmage and 5,000+ return yards (all of which were on kickoff returns). He is the only player to gain 4,000 yards three different ways: rushing, receiving, and kickoff returns. He is one of six players (Jim Brown, Lenny Moore, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, and Thurman Thomas) to exceed 60 touchdowns rushing and 20 touchdowns receiving. Another NFL record he possesses is that he is the only player with a 90+ yard reception, 90+ yard run, and a 90+ yard kickoff return all in the same season (1994). He is also the only player to record an 84+ yard touchdown run and an 84+ yard touchdown reception, in the same game (December 14, 1986). That same day, he had 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving. Walker is currently ranked eighth all time in all-purpose yards with 18,168, despite spending his first three seasons in the USFL.

While Herschel Walker's NFL career was certainly notable, it was also a disappointment from the standpoint that he never played on a championship team. High expectations were placed on him due to his extraordinary college career and the dollar amount of his trade to the Minnesota Vikings. Many of those expectations were never realized. The move to Minnesota was the turning point in his NFL tenure. In 2008, the trade was selected by as the number one worst sports trade of all time. It was also the subject of an episode of ESPN Classic's The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame....


Walker is regarded as one of the top college running backs of all time. In 1999, he was selected to Sports Illustrated's NCAA Football All-Century Team.[13] On the Fox Sports Net show Sports List, Walker was named the best college football running back of all time, and was selected as the third greatest player in college football history by ESPN.[14] Walker had his jersey number "34" retired from his alma mater, The University of Georgia.

In 2003 Johnson County High School named its football field in his honor.[15]

Walker was a highly popular and visible personality, even in his college days, as evidenced by the fact that both a thoroughbred and a standardbred race horse were named after him, the former while he was still in college. He also made several appearances in the sports documentary Damn Good Dog (2004).[16]


Walker is also intriguing for being one of the few pro football players to become successful without the use of free weight training. Rather than a heavy weight room regimen, Walker used bodyweight exercise, calisthenics, and conditioning, as well as martial arts training. He remains to this day an oddity in the pro football world. He has been said to do thousands of pushups and situps daily, rather than lift weights[citation needed] For the past twenty years, he claims to sleep four hours a night and only eat one meal a day during the evening, which normally consists of a salad, soup and bread.[citation needed]

Outside football

Walker married his college sweetheart, Cindy DeAngelis Grossman in 1983. After eighteen years of marriage they divorced in 2001.[17]

He is a born-again Christian who frequently talked about his faith during his USFL interviews. Since his retirement he has attracted little publicity, although he made a guest appearance on The Hour of Power, hosted by noted televangelist Robert Schuller.

He has a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do and he nearly made the Olympic team in the sprint relay. He competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics in two-man bobsled, finishing seventh.[18] He ran the 100 meters in 10.22 seconds and the 100 yards in 9.3 seconds. He also won back-to-back American Superstars competitions in 1987 and 1988. Walker stated in a phone interview on The Jim Rome Show on November 20, 2006 that he still performs 2,500 sit-ups and 1,500 push ups every morning. He has been going through this same routine every morning since high school.

In 1988, while still a player for the Dallas Cowboys, he danced with the Fort Worth Ballet for a single performance.[19]

In his 2008 autobiography Breaking Free, Walker revealed that he suffers from dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as "multiple personality disorder".[20] He claimed that due to his disorder, he cannot remember the season he won the Heisman Trophy, let alone the moment. He also claimed that during one episode, he had held a gun to his own head. He stated he did not ever remember doing this. He is getting help for this disorder, and feels he has recovered by gaining back control.[21]

He has recently been a contestant in the third season of the Donald Trump reality television show Celebrity Apprentice Although he owns a food service company[22], he was fired during the 8th episode for failing as Project Manager on a task to create a new meal for Schwan's LiveSmart frozen food line.[23] Throughout the season, each celebrity raised money for a charity of his or her choice; Walker selected the "Alternative Community Development Services (dba Project Turnaround)."[24]

MMA career

Herschel Walker
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 220 lb (100 kg; 16 st)
Division 265
Reach 74.0 in (188 cm)
Style Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do
Stance Orthodox
Team American Kickboxing Academy
Years active 2009–present
MMA record
Total 1
Wins 1
By knockout 1
Losses 0

In November 2007, Walker appeared on the HDNet show Inside MMA as a guest. He indicated that he would take part in a mixed martial arts reality show in the near future (along with José Canseco) and that he would have an official MMA fight at the conclusion of the show.[25]

In September 2009, it was announced that Herschel had been signed by MMA promotion Strikeforce to compete in their heavyweight division. He began a 12-week training camp with trainer "Crazy" Bob Cook, at the American Kickboxing Academy California in October 2009. American Kickboxing Academy is the high-profile camp in San Jose, Calif., that trains UFC standouts Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, Jon Fitch, Cain Velasquez, as well as former Strikeforce champions Josh Thomson (lightweight) and Cung Le (middleweight).

"I've been training for several years. I would play college football games on Saturday and then compete in martial arts tournaments on Sunday after church. I'm now looking forward to opening up another chapter in my life and to competing in MMA," said Walker in a news release.

Walker defeated Greg Nagy via TKO in his professional debut. According to the Strikeforce CEO, Walker pledged to donate his fight purse to charity.[26]

Mixed martial arts record

Result Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 1-0 Hungary Greg Nagy TKO (Strikes )[27] Strikeforce: Miami January 30, 2010 3 2:17 United States Sunrise, Florida


  1. ^ Kirkpatrick, Curry (2007-10-03). "Walker: A Renaissance Man". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  2. ^ "Trojan 70's". Johnson County Trojans Website. 2007-09-19.'s.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-14. "The Trojans, led by Herschel Walker won their second consecutive Region 3-A championship and their first State Championship. Herschel finished the season with 3,167 yards." 
  3. ^ "1980 Heisman Trophy". Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  4. ^ "1982 Heisman Trophy". Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  5. ^ "Herschel Walkers". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  6. ^ "This is the USFL Yearly Leaders". The USFL Fan Club. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  7. ^ By Viking Update Staff (2001-06-20). "History: Walker Trade". Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  8. ^ Reusse, Patrick (2006-11-22). "Banquet packs 'em in, winner drives 'em out". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  9. ^ "United States Football League Players O-Z". 
  10. ^ "Pro Football Reference". 
  11. ^ a b "Herschel Walkers: Career Stats". Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  12. ^ "Top 20 - Combined Net yards". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  13. ^ Maisel, Ivan (August 16, 1999). "SI's NCAA Football All-Century Team". Sports Illustrated. ISSN 0038-822X. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  14. ^ "25 Greatest Players in College Football". Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Damn Good Dog homepage listing cameos". Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  17. ^ Interview with ABC News
  18. ^ Todor Krastev (2006-02-05). "Bobsleigh Doubles Olympic Games 1992 Albertville". Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  19. ^ Thomas C. Hayes (1988-04-11). "Walker Balances Bulk With Ballet". New York Times. 
  20. ^ Walker Speaks
  21. ^ Walker reveals struggles with mental disorder in just-released book
  22. ^ "Herschel's Famous 33 and H. Walker Foods". Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  23. ^ He was fired from the show on April 17.Trump Rounds Up Celebs for New Season of the Apprentice NY Times, January 7, 2009
  24. ^ NBC Celebrity Apprentice 2 Press Release
  25. ^ "Episode 109". Inside MMA. HDNet. 2007-11-09.
  26. ^
  27. ^

External links

Preceded by
Marcus Allen
Heisman Trophy Winner
Succeeded by
Mike Rozier
Preceded by
Tony Dorsett
Dallas Cowboys Starting Running back
Succeeded by
Paul Palmer
Preceded by
Darrin Nelson
Minnesota Vikings Starting Running back
Succeeded by
Terry Allen
Preceded by
James Joseph
Keith Byars
Philadelphia Eagles Starting Running back
Succeeded by
Ricky Watters


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