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Walker, Herschel

Herschel Walker

1962—

Football player, entrepreneur

Herschel Walker was a standout running back in both collegiate and professional football. As a junior at the University of Georgia, the 6′1″ 223-pound Walker won the Heisman Trophy, college football's highest honor, capping a collegiate career in which he set ten National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) records. Through his subsequent career as a professional player in both the United States Football League (USFL) and National Football League (NFL), Walker proved be one of the sport's premiere rushers and receivers. Following his retirement from football in 1997, Walker parlayed his sports stardom into a successful business career, launching Renaissance Man Food Services—whose most visible brand, Herschel's Famous 34 bears its founder's name and jersey number—in 2002. Six years later Walker added "author" to his résumé with the publication of Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder, an autobiographical account of his struggle with a condition better known as multiple personality disorder.

Walker's athletic prowess was already evident in high school, where he excelled in both football and track, leading Johnson County (Georgia) High School to state championships in both sports. At the Georgia state track championships, Walker won the shot put, the 100-yard dash, and the 200-yard dash. In his senior season on the football team, he rushed for 3,167 yards, averaging 211 yards per game. Walker received two major national honors for his high school athletic achievements. In 1979 he represented Georgia at the Hertz Number 1 Awards, which annually honor the best high school track-and-field athletes from each of the fifty states. The following year Walker was named Parade magazine's national high school running back of the year.

Upon his graduation in 1980, Walker was offered more than one hundred college athletic scholarships. He finally chose to attend the University of Georgia, which was not far from his hometown of Wrightsville. In his first year at Georgia, Walker set the NCAA freshman rushing record with a total of 1,616 yards, leading the Georgia Bulldogs to an undefeated season and the school's first-ever national football championship. In the Sugar Bowl, where Georgia defeated Notre Dame, Walker played with a dislocated shoulder yet managed to gain 150 yards and score two touchdowns on his way to being named the game's most valuable player. He was also third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, marking the first time a freshman finished in the top ten.

The following year Walker finished second in the Heisman balloting, while Georgia ended the season ranked number two in the nation. He finally won the Heisman his junior year—in a landslide—and was the nation's second-leading ground rusher. He decided to forego his senior year of eligibility at Georgia and play professional football, capping off a collegiate career in which he set ten NCAA records, including the most yards gained by a rusher (5,259). In addition to his football accomplishments at Georgia, Walker was also a standout on the track team. At one point he was ranked in the top five nationally in the 60-yard dash.

In 1983 Walker signed a record $1.5 million annual contract with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. His salary made him one of the highest-paid players in all of professional football. Walker continued to dominate the playing field in his first two years with the Generals. He set the single-season rushing record, gaining 2,411 yards in 1985, earning him the USFL's most valuable player for the year.

The USFL folded in 1986, and Walker was signed by the NFL's Dallas Cowboys to a contract worth a reported $5 million for a five-year contract. His performance with the Cowboys was one of the few bright spots in a series of otherwise disappointing seasons for the team. In 1986, while the Cowboys finished the regular season with seven wins and nine losses, Walker topped the team in receiving and finished a close second to teammate Tony Dorsett in rushing. In 1987 Walker led the entire NFL in combined rushing and receiving, amassing a total of 1,606 yards.

Early in the 1989 season Walker was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, after the struggling Cowboys changed coaches and converted to a more pass-oriented offense, which gave Walker less of an opportunity to play. Walker received a reported $1.2 million in "exit money" in the deal. In return for Walker, the Cowboys received a total of five players and rights to a number of draft choices.

Walker spent three seasons with the Vikings, three more with the Philadelphia Eagles, and then single seasons with the New York Giants and his old team, the Cowboys. Along the way, the multitalented Walker added another sport to his resume, competing for the United States in the two-man bobsled event at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. When he retired from football in 1997, he trailed only Walter Payton in career all-purpose yards (rushing and receiving combined) in the NFL. Counting his years in the USFL, Walker had the highest total of any professional football player. In retirement, Walker focused on an entrepreneurial career in the food services industry. In 2002 he founded Renaissance Man Food Services, which prepares and distributes meals to many types of businesses and institutions, from convenience stores and bowling alleys to hospitals and conference centers, mostly under the brand name Herschel's Famous 34.

In 2008 Walker' account of his life with multiple personalites, Breaking Free, was published. In the book Walker relates the experience of living with dissociative identity disorder (DID), and details events and actions that those who know him found shocking. An example from the book that received a great deal of media attention was the story of his holding a gun to his own head and playing Russian roulette. In writing the book, Walker sought to demystify DID—a rare condition that most people know only through sensationaized television movies—and demonstrate that an individual can succeed in life in spite of the illness. By any reasonable measure of the word "success," he has certainly fulfilled that goal.

At a Glance …

Born Herschel Junior Walker on March 3, 1962, in Augusta, GA; son of Willis and Christine (Taylor) Walker; married Cynthia De Angelis, March 31, 1983 (divorced 2003); children: Christian. Education: Attended University of Georgia, 1980-83.

Career: Professional football player with the New Jersey Generals, 1983-86, Dallas Cowboys, 1986-89 and 1996-97, Minnesota Vikings, 1989-92, Philadelphia Eagles, 1992-95, and New York Giants, 1995-96; Renaissance Man Food Services, Savannah, GA, owner and CEO, 2002—.

Awards: Hertz Number 1 Award, 1979; named national high school back of the year by Parade, 1980; three-time All American football player at University of Georgia; Heisman Trophy as outstanding college football player in the United States, 1982; named most valuable player in the United States Football League, 1985; inducted into Collegiate Football Hall of Fame, 2002.

Addresses: Office—Renaissance Man Food Services LLC, 22 E. Montgomery Crossroads, Savannah, GA 31406.

Selected writings

Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Sources

Books

Carroll, Bob, Pete Palmer, and John Thorn, The Football Abstract, Warner Books, 1989.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen, The Sports Encyclopedia: Pro Football, 6th edition, St. Martin's, 1988.

Periodicals

Ebony, November 1987.

Jet, May 19, 2008.

New York Times, October 13, 1989; October 29, 1989; April 20, 2008, p. 7.

Sports Illustrated, October 23, 1989.

USA Today, April 14, 2008, p. 11C.

Washington Post, May 9, 2008, p. C1.

Online

"About Herschel," Herschel's Famous 34, Renaissance Man Food Services Web site, http://www.herschelsfamous34.com/about.html (accessed July 6, 2008).

"Herschel Walker Reveals Many Sides of Himself," CNN.com, April 15, 2008, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/04/15/herschel.walker.did/index.html (accessed July 6, 2008).

"Herschel Walker: ‘Tell the World My Truth’," ABC News, April 14, 2008, http://www.abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=4643971&page=1 (accessed July 6, 2008).

—Michael E. Mueller and Bob Jacobson

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Walker, Herschel 1962—

Herschel Walker 1962

Professional football player

At a Glance

Sources

Outstanding running back Herschel Walker has been a stellar performer in both collegiate and professional football. As a junior at the University of Georgia, the 61, 223-pound Walker won the Heisman Trophy, college footballs highest honor, en route to a collegiate career in which he set ten NCAA records. His subsequent career as a professional player in both the United States Football League (USFL) and National Football League (NFL), has shown him to be one of the sports premiere rushers and receivers. Walker, who has played for the Minnesota Vikings since 1989, is arguably the most devastating running back in todays world, according to a contributor to The Football Abstract. Whether running or catching, Herschel is a threat to score every time he touches a football.

Walkers prowess was evident already in high school, where he excelled in both football and track, leading Johnson County (Georgia) High School to state championships in both sports. At the Georgia state track championships, Walker won the shot put, the 100-yard dash, and the 200-yard dash; and while in his senior season on the football team, he rushed for 3,167 yards, averaging 211 yards per game. Walker received two major national honors for his high school athletic achievements. In 1979 he represented Georgia at the Hertz Number 1 Awards, which annually honor the best high school track-and-field athletes from each of the 50 states, and the following year Walker was named Parade magazines national high school running back of the year.

When Walker set out for college in 1980, he was offered over 100 athletic scholarships. He finally chose to attend the University of Georgia, nearest his hometown of Wrightsville. Walker quickly brought himself and the Georgia football program into the national spotlight. In his first year, he set the NCAA freshman running record with a total of 1,616 yards, leading the Georgia Bulldogs to an undefeated season and the schools first-ever national football championship. In the Sugar Bowl, which Georgia won over Notre Dame, Walker played with a dislocated shoulder, yet managed to gain 150 yards and two touchdowns on his way to being named the bowl games most valuable player. He was also third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, in which a freshman had never before finished in the top ten.

The following year Walker finished second in the Heisman

At a Glance

Full name, Herschel Junior Walker; born March 3, 1962, in Augusta, GA; son of Willis and Christine (Taylor) Walker; married Cynthia De Angelis, March 31, 1983. Education: Attended University of Georgia, 1980-83.

Played professional football with the New Jersey Generals (United States Football League), 1983-86, with the Dallas Cowboys (National Football League), 1986-89, and with the Minnesota Vikings (National Football League), 1989. Owner, Diversified Builders Inc., Athens, GA. Appears on video, Hershel Walkers Fitness Challenge for Kids, HPG Home Video, 1989.

Awards: Hertz Number 1 Award, 1979; named national high school back of the year by Parade, 1980; three-time All American football player at University of Georgia; Heisman Trophy as outstanding college football player in the United States, 1982; named most valuable player in the United States Football League, 1985.

balloting, while Georgia ended the season ranked number two in the nation. He finally won the Heisman his junior yearin a landslideand was the nations second leading ground rusher. He decided to forego his senior year of eligibility at Georgia and play professional football, capping off a collegiate career in which he set ten NCAA records, including the most yards gained by a rusher (5,259). In addition to his football accomplishments at Georgia, Walker was also a stand-out on the track team, and at one point was ranked in the top five nationally in the 60-yard dash.

In 1983 Walker signed a record $1.5 million annual contract with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. His salary, under team owner Donald Trump, made him one of the highest-paid players in all of professional football. Walker continued to dominate the playing field in his first two years of professional football. With the Generals, he set the record for the highest single-season rushing record in professional football, running for 2,411 yards in 1985, and the same year was named the USFLs most valuable player.

The USFL folded in 1986, and Walker was signed by the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL for a reported five-year, $5 million contract. His performance with the Cowboys was one of the few bright spots in a series of otherwise disappointing seasons for the team. In 1986, while the Cowboys finished the regular season with 7 wins and 9 losses, Walker topped the team in receiving and finished a close second to fellow Cowboy Tony Dorsett in the rushing category. In 1987, which the Cowboys finished with 7 wins and 8 losses, Walker led the entire NFL in combined rushing and receiving, amassing a total of 1,606 yards.

Early into the 1989 season Walker was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, after the struggling Cowboys changed coaches and converted to a more pass-oriented offense which gave Walker less of an opportunity to play. Walker received a reported $1.2 million in the form of exit money in the deal, while he gained for the Cowboys a total of five players and rights to a number of draft choices. The Vikings, ready to utilize Walkers running talents, provided a good atmosphere for Walker. Carl Banks of the New York Giants commented in the New York Times on the change in Walker after he joined the Vikings: Hes a much-inspired runner now. Aside from his abilities, he has an offensive line that gives him a crack to get into the secondary. With Dallas this year, just playing against him, you saw he was giving 100 percent, but things were not going as smoothly as in the past. Youve got to have other guys doing things to have success as a runner. I think he has that element now.

Sources

Books

Carroll, Bob, Pete Palmer, and John Thorn, The Football Abstract, Warner Books, 1989.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen, The Sports Encyclopedia: Pro Football, 6th edition, St. Martins, 1988.

Periodicals

Ebony, November 1987.

New York Times, October 13, 1989; October 29, 1989.

Sports Illustrated, October 23, 1989.

Michael E. Mueller

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Walker, Herschel 1962—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Walker, Herschel 1962—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/walker-herschel-1962

"Walker, Herschel 1962—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/walker-herschel-1962