Yes, it’s true. Herschel Walker was born this the 3rd day of March back in 1962. Nearly half a century later, let’s see, he’s represented the United States in the Winter Olympics; danced professional ballet; developed a successful food services enterprise; and, amongst other things, just recently won his first MMA match. He also dabbled in something called “Football” a bit along the way, and that’s actually what we’re focusing on today. More specifically, why Mr. Walker’s bust should grace the hallowed halls in Canton at some point.
Yes, yes, I know. It immediately sounds like a preposterous, if not borderline insane, suggestion, but that’s why I’m here to offer this hopefully compelling argument on Herschel’s behalf.
It might actually be more of a comparative evaluation, really. See, I figured if I could demonstrate that Herschel was as good, better or even just comparable to an already enshrined peer that nearly no one would question is justifiably in the Hall, then one must logically accept that Walker is at least worthy of such consideration. That said, let’s take a look at Walker’s professional career next to Tony Dorsett’s. The results may surprise you…
Now, as a pure back (rushing from behind the line of scrimmage), Dorsett may have the edge. Of course, a careful examination of the two as complete players leads one to believe that Herschel arguably, though quietly, had a more productive NFL career.
First, Herschel amassed 18,168 total yards in the NFL from ’86-’97 (8,225 rushing, 4859 receiving, and 5,084 on kickoff returns), good for 8th all-time (Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton, Emmit Smith, Tim Brown, Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders are ahead of him). Walker also managed 84 career TD’s.
Dorsett, on the other hand, compiled 16,293 total yards from ’77-’88 (same amount of seasons) (12,739 rushing and 3,554 receiving), while scoring only 6 more TD’s than Walker. Notice also that Tony carried the ball 982 more times than Herschel, averaging 4.3 yards per carry to Walker’s 4.2.
Despite the similarities here, history obviously hasn’t been as kind to Herschel’s NFL career, though there’s certainly a plausible explanation for this. Walker’s NFL legacy, right or wrong, is etched as deeply, if not more, by the landmark Cowboys-Vikings trade than any of his on-field exploits, and, deserved or not, being the inescapable butt of that joke, amongst other things, has arguably tarnished his career’s luster somewhat.
Still, I think most too easily forget just how much Walker accomplished in the NFL, and that’s not even considering the three “wasted” years he had in the doomed USFL. If you take Walker’s USFL numbers, you arguably have the greatest running back in professional football history, let alone one better than Dorsett (7,115 more combined yards: 5,592 rushing, 1,484 receiving, and 69 on kickoff returns).
Including Walker’s work with Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals also makes him pro football’s all-time all purpose yardage leader with 25,283 yards (Rice is the current leader with 23,546). Even without the USFL numbers, though, as noted above, Herschel is still in the top 8. Throw in the additional 61 TD’s Herschel amassed during his USFL tenure, and there’s little room to argue he’s worthy of a spot in the Hall.
Of course, to be fair, many critics like to point out, and rightly so, that Walker’s astronomical USFL stats were tallied against inferior competition. In response, assuming they’re even needed here, I’ll offer to cut Herschel’s USFL stats in half, which is probably taking too much away from him, and yet aren’t we still looking at a Hall of Fame career here?
All that said, the main point is that I think Herschel deserves a bit more recognition in discussions about potential dark horse candidates for Canton. Unfortunately, I certainly won’t be surprised if he never even sniffs the Hall. Again, though: Notwithstanding his USFL numbers, I think he’s by all means worthy of a spot given some of his peers that are already in (Dorsett, et al.). If one is generous enough to consider Walker’s USFL accolades, it’s a no-brainer (even giving him 50% credit).
After all, lets not forget that it’s called the “Professional” Football Hall of Fame, right?