There’ s a long list of former players who believe they belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame … and who, frankly, are probably right.
Then there is someone like former star running back Herschel Walker, who believes he should be in but whose case is subject to considerable debate — mostly because if you look at what he did in the USFL and NFL combined, there is no question he’s Hall-0f-Fame material. And because this is not the NFL Hall of Fame we’re talking about; it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame … which, by definition, should include the USFL.
Only one problem: Walker wants to be considered ONLY on his NFL numbers, and that’s a harder case to make. Nevertheless, he appears on the Hall’s preliminary list for the Class of 2018, and that has Walker — who confessed he never thought about Canton before — to think about it now.
“It hit me: Why am I not in the Hall of Fame?” he said on the latest broadcast of the Talk of Fame Network. “It’s a big question: Why am I not in it?
“(But) should I go in because of pro football? No, no, no, I don’t want to go in because of pro football. I want to go in because of the NFL. I want to have the same criteria as anyone else … because I’m not sure (why), if I want to go in as just NFL, my stats wouldn’t be good enough to get me in.
“You look at my stats, and I think they’re pretty good. And I think when you start throwing the USFL in, they get even better. But I don’t want to do that. I want to go in just like anyone else because going into the Hall of Fame is not something where you want to put an asterisk next to anyone’s name. You want to go in as just a player. That’s what I want to do.”
While Walker’s NFL stats are impressive, they won’t get the attention of Hall-of-Fame voters who never saw him play. He ranks 43rd in yards rushing, with 8,225 yards — just ahead of Roger Craig. He’s 46th in yards from scrimmage with 13,084, or just behind Craig. And his 84 touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning are tied for 5oth all-time.
However … if you include his USFL numbers … when he set a pro rushing record of 2,411 yards rushing in 1985 and when, in three seasons, he ran for 5,562 yards, caught 1,484 yards in passes and scored 61 times, suddenly, he’s on the Hall-of-Fame radar. In fact, he moves to the head of the class.
I said, ‘Why should I not be in the Hall of Fame? I tell people: Look at me as a football player. Let’s not look at me as a running back.
That’s because his resume would look like this: 13,787 yards rushing, good for fifth all-time; 20,130 combined yards, good for fourth; and 145 TDs, tied with Marcus Allen for sixth. Impressive, huh?
There’s more. What makes those numbers so remarkable is that when he first joined the NFL Dallas Cowboys in 1986 he wasn’t used as a running back; he was a fullback for Tony Dorsett, and he became such a threat as a receiver that he set a franchise record that season for single-season receptions with 76.
(And that’s why) I said, ‘Why should I not be in the Hall of Fame?’ ” Walker said. “I tell people: Look at me as a football player. Let’s not look at me as a running back. Because I went into Dallas as a fullback.
“I don’t know that a lot of people even know (it) but I ended up breaking the Cowboys’ receiving record that year as a fullback, tight end, slot back … whatever they asked me to play I played it. I ended up breaking the Cowboys’ receiving record that year, and my record stood until Michael Irvin broke it.
“When you start talking about football players, that’s what I tell people: ‘I played whatever they asked me to play. It wasn’t that I wanted to play running back, or I wanted to do this. I wanted to win football games. So whatever it was going to take for me to win, that’s what I wanted to do.”
When the Cowboys traded away Dorsett and moved Walker to a running back in 1988, he responded by leading the NFC in rushing with 1,514 yards and was third in yards from scrimmage with 2,019 — and that despite playing six positions, including tight end, fullback and H-back. When he retired, after subsequent stops in Minnesota and Philadelphia, he was the NFL’s 16th all-time rushing leader, fifth to reach 15,000 all-purpose yards and 19th to hit 8,000 yards rushing.
Yet he’s all but forgotten by voters. The question we wanted to know is: Why?
“I think that happened because I played on so many different teams, and I was not on a Super Bowl team,” he said. “But that’s a question you need to ask them: How can you forget certain players?
“I hate to pat myself on the back here because there are a lot of guys that feel they’ve been forgotten and probably should be in the Hall of Fame; that should be there way before I should be considered. But then I look at myself, and I say, ‘Guys, you just go back to the NFL stats. How could you not look at Herschel Walker’s stats and put him anywhere?’