(Herschel Walker photos courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
When former running back Herschel Walker retired after the 1997 season I remember people asking if he was Hall-of-Fame material. I laughed at the idea then. I’m not laughing at it now.
It’s not because I believe Walker should be in the Hall; it’s because I believe he should be in the conversation. And here’s why: His USFL resume. He put up ridiculous numbers in a league that gave us Hall-of-Famers like Reggie White, Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Gary Zimmerman, and I know what you’re thinking.
Yeah, so what? It’s the USFL.
Well, it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame, too … not the NFL Hall … and last time I checked the USFL was a pro football league. That, plus Walker’s tenure in the NFL, makes him Hall-of-Fame worthy, and if you don’t believe me let’s start dissecting a few of his accomplishments.
He not only won two rushing titles and ran for over 5,500 yards in three USFL seasons; he set a pro league record with 2,411 in 1985, a year when he produced over 4,000 yards in offense. Think about that: Over 4,000 freakin’ yards. Then he goes on to the NFL where he puts up 18,168 all-purpose yards – second all-time when he retired – to push his total to over 25,000 in both leagues … and rushes for another 8,225 yards.
Now, combine his USFL and NFL resumes, and the guy runs for 13,787 yards, catches 642 passes and produces 143 touchdowns. That would put him fifth on the all-time rushing list, third on the receptions list for running backs and seventh in career scores, two behind Hall-of-Famer Marcus Allen.
Nice, huh? There’s more. He’s the only player to gain 4,000 yards three different ways – rushing, receiving and kickoff returns. He’s the only player in NFL history to have a run of 90 or more yards, a catch of 90 or more and a kickoff return of 90 or more … all in the same season (1994). And he’s the only NFL player to have a touchdown run of 84 or more yards and a touchdown catch of the same distance in the same game.
Connect the dots, people.
“I’m deserving for the Hall of Fame,” Walker told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “And that’s just from the NFL. Look at what I did. I’m in the top 10 in combined yards, rushing receiving and return yards. I caught over 500 passes. I don’t deny that I was a heckuva football player, and I think what the Hall of Fame is looking for is good football players because I played every aspect of the game.”
He’s right about everything except what the Hall is looking for. It’s after great … not good … players, and Walker qualifies there, too. Heck, the guy was so accomplished Minnesota gave away five players and eight draft picks to acquire the guy in a 1989 trade that backfired on the Vikings and planted the seeds for the Cowboys’ Super Bowl dynasty of the 1990s.
The knock on Walker, of course, is that he was named to only two Pro Bowls in the NFL and never played on a championship team. OK, I get it. He never was dominant in one area there. But remember: This is the Pro Football Hall, and no running back in the USFL was better or more dominant than Herschel Walker.
In fact, when we had former USFL executive Carl Peterson on the Talk of Fame Network last month and asked him to name his All-USFL club, the first back off the table was Walker. No surprise there. When fans were asked to name the all-league team, Walker was their slam-dunk pick, too.
He’s not, of course, a slam dunk for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he should be a consideration. Herschel Walker was a great player who put up prodigious numbers in every phase of the game. I don’t care that he didn’t win a championship. What I do care is that when his USFL and NFL resumes are combined he’s what you thought he was when you watched him.