Herschel Walker to HOF voters: Consider my NFL stats only


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?’

Previous Judgements Six: Where's the power in the NFC North now?
Next Thirty years later: The Gibbs speech Redskins can't forget

13 Comments

  1. October 16, 2017
    Reply

    Herschel’s a class act. But basically every argument he makes for his HOF case, he cements O.J. Anderson’s: Better NFL stats, did everything the coaches asked him to do to win games as noted by five time Super Bowl head coach Bill Belichick and was a Super Bowl champion/MVP. And throw in Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year for good measure.

  2. Rasputin
    October 16, 2017
    Reply

    I’ve argued for Herschel’s induction for years. When he retired in 1997 he ranked #2 in NFL history in all purpose yards, behind only Walter Peyton. That alone makes him HoF worthy in my book. Plus he did it with such versatility. Walker might be the one NFL player I’ve seen who really could play every position on the field if asked. He was a great RB, an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and a great returner. He was very rugged with world class top speed. Add specific great seasons, like leading the league in all purpose yards with 1,606 in 1987 and posting a 2,019 apy season in 1988, and clearly this guy could dominate.

    Though I seen no reason to not give him any credit at all for the USFL years. Like the AFL, USFL numbers shouldn’t be weighed on par with NFL stats, but they shouldn’t be totally disregarded either. He utterly dominated that league, which included some great players (e.g. Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Steve Young, etc.). Overall Walker holds the pro football record for all purpose yards.

    There’s something wrong with the “Pro Football Hall of Fame” when it excludes the man who gained more yards than any other pro football player who ever lived. But I agree that his NFL stats alone merit induction, even if it’s a unique case.

    • Rasputin
      October 16, 2017
      Reply

      Meant Walter Payton.

      • 1976 Pitt Panthers
        October 16, 2017
        Reply

        Herschel Walker’s NFL stats just aren’t HOF material, he only made two Pro Bowls, and just had one huge year(1988) running the football. Was a good receiver, and had return ability, but Brian Mitchell won’t be in the HOF either. I give credit for Walker’s longevity, but the quality just isn’t there for me. Walker’s meal ticket in college and in the USFL was running the ball, and disappointed in the NFL in that regard.

        • Rasputin
          October 17, 2017
          Reply

          That’s because you’re trying to judge him the normal way you would a player: Pro Bowls…check. Career rushing yards…check. Etc.. As I said, Walker’s case is unique. I knew Brian Mitchell would get mentioned because he’s the ONLY retired non-HoFer with Walker’s career NFL all purpose yardage. But Mitchell was primarily a returner with extreme longevity who only played sparingly on offense.

          I think Walker’s versatility and overall contribution should be valued. Mitchell never rushed for more than 311 yards in a season. He never had more than 625 yards from scrimmage. Walker posted NINE seasons of over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He had 6 years of over 1,300 yards. There aren’t many players in NFL history with sustained success like that, and most of them are Hall of Famers.

          Walker certainly didn’t disappoint Cowboys fans. He was by far Dallas’ best player in the second half of the 90s. He led the NFC in rushing once he stopped splitting time with Dorsett. Walker’s success as a RB in what was left of his 20s once he joined the NFL validated his eye popping performance during the USFL years. The trade negatively impacted his career as such things often to do. He went to teams that used a more committee running approach. In fact 1988 was the only season of his NFL career where at least one other RB on his team didn’t have over 100 carries.

          Despite that he retired with 13,084 yards from scrimmage, ranking 18th at the time, only 16 yards shy of Roger’s Craig’s number. Craig is a borderline HoF candidate whose claim to fame is his yards from scrimmage. I lean against inducting Craig, but lots of people support his induction.

          Walker basically had Craig’s career yards from scrimmage total plus 5,084 return yards Craig didn’t have. That makes Walker a player unlike any other in at least modern NFL history. He’s an unusual candidate whose case defies easy, cut and dried comparisons with any other player, but it’s singular and impressive. Add his phenomenal USFL stats and him having more pro all purpose yards than anyone else and his Pro Football HoF case becomes even stronger.

    • Scott Douglas
      November 7, 2017
      Reply

      I agree wholeheartedly! It’s the PRO Football HOF.

  3. 1976 Pitt Panthers
    October 18, 2017
    Reply

    For me, ranking 18th in yards from scrimmage, at the time of requirement, isn’t what I’d like to see in a HOF back. Walker never won anything, or was a key component of teams which did. Tony Dorsett was a gamebreaker, with many signature moments, and Walker just seemed to be an above-average back after leaving Dallas.

    Having six years of 1,300 from scrimmage is good work, but Walker managed just one 1,000 rushing season after 1988. He was great in the USFL, but I needed to see much more in the NFL to support his HOF case. I just didn’t see the greatness nearly often enough the way other HOF players have demonstrated. Just 18 100 yard rushing games in his long NFL career. I get the versatility, but that’s insufficient to raise his lackluster rushing career.

    • Rasputin
      October 18, 2017
      Reply

      Still sounds like you’re judging him as a rusher rather than an all around football player. I get that. I don’t know any other modern NFL player like Walker so he’s not easy to evaluate. There’s no template.

      • 1976 Pitt Panthers
        October 19, 2017
        Reply

        I’m with you on the advantage of versatility, but I just needed to see more excellence in those other areas to compensate for the disappointing rushing totals. I honestly don’t recall games in which Walker was the focal point because of those different skills after he left Dallas. For me, Darren Sproles was the more versatile player.

        • Rasputin
          October 19, 2017
          Reply

          Sproles only had one season of over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He’s been more of an offensive contributor than Mitchell, but he’s still overwhelmingly a returner. Not quite the same type of player Walker was.

          • 1976 Pitt Panthers
            October 20, 2017

            If Walker hadn’t been one of the greatest college RBs ever, maybe his versatility would be appreciated more. But I’ve been of the mindset that a HOF player needs to dominate for a period of time, and I just don’t see that in his 106 games outside of the monster 1988 season. Versatility still needs to be at an elite level. Gale Sayers had a much shorter career, but he was truly feared beyond rushing the ball, and Walker didn’t have that.

            Putting aside the nine 100 yard rushing games over his last 106 games, I’m struggling to see the combined receiving and return output in games which were very impressive. Where were the 200 yard all purpose games? Walker averaged only 45 yards rushing for most of his NFL career(post 1988), so I would expect a HOF candidate to really compensate with huge totals as a receiver/returner. Two Pro Bowls, and Walker never won anything. Good career, but even with the USFL factored in, I don’t see a HOF player.

            You’ve got to be a focal point, or a key member of the offense or defense for the vast majority of a career, and Walker falls short for me.

          • Rasputin
            October 20, 2017

            For me his unique NFL career is enough for Canton, but would it change your opinion at all if you considered his USFL feats too?

  4. 1976 Pitt Panthers
    October 29, 2017
    Reply

    Even if we included Walker’s USFL stats, I just just see an authentic HOF player. Sam Mills was great in both leagues, and has a stronger case in my view.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.