Herschel Walker made an indelible mark on University of Georgia (UGA) football history as a record-setting running back from 1980 to 1982. He led UGA to a national championship in 1980 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1982. Many observers of the game consider Walker to be one of the best players in college history. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Herschel Junior Walker was born in Wrightsville on March 3, 1962, to Christine and Willis Walker. In 1980 UGA football coach Vince Dooley signed Walker to a scholarship. As a freshman at UGA Walker led the team to an undefeated regular season and a Sugar Bowl victory over the University of Notre Dame to win the national championship. He drew consensus all-American honors and was third in the Heisman Trophy voting that season, setting records with 1,616 total yards, a rushing average of 146.9 yards, and fifteen touchdowns.
Walker was a consensus all-American in each of the three seasons he played at UGA, setting eleven National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) records, sixteen Southeastern Conference (SEC) records, and forty-one UGA records, including the most rushing yards in a game (283 against Vanderbilt University in 1980). He ran for more than 100 yards in eleven games as a sophomore. At the end of his UGA career, Walker’s total of 5,259 yards gained was the most ever by a college running back in a three-year career and made him the third leading rusher in NCAA history. His three seasons for UGA were the school’s most successful in its long football history. UGA won three straight conference titles and posted a record of thirty-three wins and only three losses. Walker also competed on Georgia’s track and field team, twice drawing all-American honors.
Walker left UGA after his junior season to play for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL). During his first season with the Generals in 1983, he set a professional single-season rushing record with 2,411 yards and was named the USFL’s Most Valuable Player. After his first season in the USFL Walker completed his Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from UGA.
Whenthe USFL folded in 1986, Walker signed with the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage in 1987 with 1,606 and led the league in rushing in 1988. The Cowboys traded Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989, and he later played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. He returned to the Cowboys shortly before retiring in 1997. During his NFL career, Walker played in two Pro Bowls, and at the time of his retirement he trailed only Walter Payton in all-purpose yards gained in the NFL. Additionally, he led all players in that category in professional football history, counting his years in the USFL.
Walker is not the only athlete in his family. In 1979 his older sister Veronica became the first woman to receive a track scholarship at UGA, and he is married to former UGA track star Cindy DeAngelis, with whom he has a son, Christian. They live in Irving, Texas, but Walker remains active with the UGA Athletic Association.
Walker owns and runs a company, Renaissance Man International, which is based in Savannah. He is most involved with a branch of the company called Herschel’s Famous 34, which sells prepared chicken and appetizers to restaurants. A portion of all profits from Herschel’s Famous 34 are given to charitable organizations. In addition to other charitable work, he regularly gives motivational speeches at banquets and schools all over the country.
In 2008 Walker published his autobiography, Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder, which chronicles his early life and reveals his struggles with dissociative identity disorder. Walker was diagnosed with the condition, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, in 2002.