When Walker walked

Chip Towers recounts the story of Herschel turning pro before the 1983 season, and if you’re a Georgia fan, you’ve probably heard all three versions of what happened.

  • Walker contends a coin flip in his Athens apartment determined his fate.
  • Vince Dooley insists his star running back was duped after a signed contract was torn up and flushed down a toilet.
  • Still others say Walker and his family were shopping around, looking for the best deal they could get and finally accepting what was at the time the most lucrative professional football contract ever negotiated.

Actually, there’s no reason to think those three narratives contradict each other.

What’s really interesting, though, is that while Walker had misgivings about taking the money and leaving his teammates, his teammates urged him to do what was best for himself.

“I just thought he had done all he could do in college football and it was time to move on,” said Buck Belue, who quarterbacked the 1980 team and also played in the USFL. “He’d won a national championship, a Heisman Trophy, broke rushing records. And let’s face it, his family was poor. They needed the money.”

Frank Ros captained the 1980 team and remains one of Walker’s closest friends. He was a graduate assistant on Dooley’s staff and counseled Walker when all this was going down.

“It all kind of happened fast and Herschel was confused about what he should do,” Ros said. “I was a kind of mentor for Herschel back then, his big brother when he came to Georgia, and we talked about it. I said, ‘Why did you come to college? To get a degree. What do you get a degree for? To get a good job. Why do you want a good job? So, I can take care of the family. So, I told him, you just hop-scotched all that with the kind of contract you’re going to get.’”

This was forty years ago and those amateurs knew where the bread was buttered even back then.  But, sure, romantics, tell yourself that things were simpler and more noble in those days.

11 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

11 responses to “When Walker walked

  1. josh hancher

    Preach.

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  2. I still remember that fateful day. I was 15 and heard from one of the coaches at my school. I couldn’t believe it. Herschel left, and the Dawg Nation never got to say good-bye. He never got that standing ovation in Sanford Stadium leaving the field in his last home game.

    Yes, we say thank you every time he shows up on the big screen or on the field today, but it’s different.

    I don’t blame him. He did what was best for his family. I still think in his heart of hearts he regrets not setting every career rushing record where they will never be broken or winning that 2nd national title.

    The GOAT.

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  3. Gaskilldawg

    Chip Towers repeated the myth that Herschel’s parents were tenant farmers. Wrong. They owned their own home. Willis Walker was a foreman in a kaolin plant, and was in the United Mineworkers Union. His Mother worked at a textile plant. They weren’t rich but they were middle class.
    I don’t doubt they encouraged Herschel to sign a contract but for the one hundredth million time they weren’t poor tenant farmers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mick Jagger

    Among the highlights of my life – watching the 1980 Ga-SC game from The Tracks. 2 Heisman winners, although Herschel should have also won it as a freshman. 2 50+ yard Rex Robinson kicks. A forced fumble by Rogers late as SC was driving to win. And, of course, a long run by Herschel.

    Great day to be a Dawg! The game was a close as its much more famous brother from the next week (Buck to Lindsay).

    And, yes, Grasshopper, Herschel really was all of that and a bag of chips.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Russ

      I was in the stands. My dad had come to visit me in school and go to the game with me. By that time, I’d seen Herschel in person but my dad still hadn’t. His jaw dropped when Herschel broke the long one (just like I did at the Texas A&M game/home opener). Great memories!

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  5. Derek

    My only Christmas present in 1982 was season tickets for herschel’s senior season. Life as a bulldog fan has been just one kick in the balls after another ever since.

    Logically, I get it. Emotionally, I’m still all fucked up almost 40 years after the fact.

    I never saw 34 play live and in person. It was supposed to happen 6 times. We we’re supposed to win a natty that year.

    The usfl can eat a bag of dicks.

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    • That may be the saddest thing I ever heard, but it explains a lot of the vitriol in some of your posts.
      And thanks to social distancing we can’t even give you a much needed hug…

      Liked by 3 people

  6. LO

    Sad day to wake up, step out of Reed Hall and hear that He was leaving.

    You’re right Senator, we should give up all our idealism and just chase money…

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  7. Eddie Atkins

    The greatest college football player of all times and the greatest announcer of all times, at the same time. And both of them great people also!

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