By acclamation, Herschel Walker is the greatest college running back of all time. Walker is widely known for his sensational football career at the University of Georgia (UGA), where he led the Bulldogs to their first National Championship during his freshman season, scoring 15 touchdowns, amassing 1,616 rushing yards, and setting an NCAA freshman rushing record. A three-time SEC player of the year, he earned consecutive Consensus All-American honors, set 30 UGA all-time records, and capped off his college career as the winner of the coveted Heisman Trophy. Following his junior year, Walker took his game to the next level and turned pro where he continued to dominate.
Walker’s first pro season was spent playing in the United States Football League for the New Jersey Generals and then team owner Donald J. Trump (stay tuned for more on this). Bursting onto the scene, Herschel dominated the league earning MVP honors and setting a slew of records. After three years in the USFL, Walker moved to the NFL rushing for over 8,000 yards and catching for nearly 5,000 more in 12 years playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings. In 2002, Herschel was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Walker is an All-American on and off the field. Today, his impact is far greater than his many accolades, trophies, and championships. Since his youth, Herschel has dreamed of going into the military, and while his path was not traditional, God provided a way for him to do just that.
Ultimately, Walker achieved success both academically and athletically as a young man who simply put, could do it all. The son of Willis and Christine Walker, Walker was one of seven children in a blue-collar family. Growing up in Georgia he was studious, disciplined, and routinely excelled at just about anything he set his mind to. He was taught to find a way, not an excuse. He took his education seriously, earning Valedictorian of his high school class and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at the University of Georgia. Following his football retirement, Walker was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. This marked the beginning of what shaped a football superstar into a mental health advocate and beacon of light for people around the world. Hook and Barrel asked Walker about his incredible work with veterans.
Hook & Barrel: For more than a decade, you have made over 300 visits to military installations speaking to thousands providing motivational and emotional support to service members and veterans, especially those with mental health issues in the United States and around the globe. Tell us about this experience?
Herschel Walker: I’m trying to remove the stigma of mental health. I struggled with it as well when I got out of football. I was diagnosed with what they call a mental health problem, Dissociative Identity Disorder—and I had no clue what they were talking about. Here I was, Valedictorian of my class, I played football, I was a decent person, a good man, how could I have a mental health problem? Well I’m proud to say I sought help and spent time in a program. And then I wrote a book looking back over my life and I realized that we all fall short of the glory of God. Anyone who’s known me knows that I’ve always wanted to go into the military. A friend asked me to talk with a military serviceman who was having a problem. I went and spoke with him, and he said it really helped, and he asked me to help others as well. From there, I became an advocate for the Patriot Support Program through the Universal Health Services. For the last 12 years, about every three weeks I’ve gone to a military base helping to remove the stigma of mental health and encourage those struggling to seek help when they need it. These men and women in service go through so much. They are put into terrible situations abroad where violence changes them. Some people can handle that, and some people can’t. I’m here to help those who can’t. You’re going to get knocked down in life, but you have to get back up. By being true to myself, I can use what I’ve been through to help these real heroes realize there is no shame in getting help. Our military men and women sacrifice their lives and time with family for our country. That is huge to me. People over here in America sometimes forget this. They forget where their freedom to protest and freedom of speech comes from. Our military men and women are true heroes. This is my way of thanking them. It helps me too.
HB: You have been vocal regarding your stance on the National Anthem protests that have continued to grow in popularity since Donald J. Trump took office and announced his re-election campaign. The NBA, MLB, and other leagues are applauding the kneeling and have aligned with the social justice movement by displaying the “Black Lives Matter” across fields, courts, buses, shirts, armbands, and more. This season, more players than ever are now taking a knee during the Anthem in a move to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Players who stand are being accused of not caring about social justice. Reports show that despite being deprived of sports for months due to Covid-19, NBA and MLB viewership are at an all-time low following a widespread fan boycott citing the leagues political agenda. What do you think has led to this radical shift in politicizing sports, and what can we do about it?
HW: Politics should never be in sports. I think many of the older players would agree with this. People in America would like to sit at home and watch a game without being thrown a political statement in their face. There is no doubt that black lives matter, however, I don’t know whether these teams are supporting the slogan or the organization. The BLM organization is not about togetherness, they’re about separation and funding purely democratic candidates. These players kneel and demand justice, but they need to communicate what that justice should look like. Let’s discuss it off the court. These players, coaches, and commissioners need to go to Washington with solutions in mind for how to tackle these issues. If any NBA player were to say they wanted to meet with their congressman, you better believe they would get that meeting, listening ears, and an agenda lined up.
HB: Highly paid athletes fulminate our country on the world stage, painting a narrow and distorted perception of America and our President. It’s no secret that you’re a supporter of President Trump and to the surprise of many, have been friends with him since you played football for the team he once owned. You two share the common belief that America is the greatest country on earth. Tell me about your friendship with the President and why America is great.
HW: Donald Trump and I have been friends for over 37 years. In fact, Little Ivanka and Donald Jr. were with my family a lot when they were kids spending time at Disney and the Bronx Zoo… do you think if this President was a racist, he would have allowed this? When Donald came to South Florida, he was the first guy who opened a country club that allowed blacks. Donald has done more in the last three years than the last three presidents did the entire time they were in office. He created more jobs for African Americans- over 1.1 million in three years compared to 140,000 with Obama in eight years. If we give him one more term, and maybe a little bit of support from the legislature this time, just imagine how much he can get done. America is the greatest nation to ever exist. Our nation has made strides in establishing and ensuring equality of rights under the law. And in doing so, we are achieving greater social equality than any other society. America is a uniquely great land of opportunity, and we must unite to keep it that way.