Just when it seemed no hyperbole was too fulsome to describe the exploits and future prospects of Georgia’s nonpareil running back Herschel Walker, along came Dallas Cowboy executive Gil Brandt, one of the NFL’s most respected appraisers of talent and character. “If there is a black President,” said Brandt, “Herschel has a great chance of being him.” Which is more than just another way of saying that Walker, who earlier this month was awarded the Heisman Trophy as college football’s outstanding player, compares to most other runners as a Rolls-Royce compares to a Chevy.
The wonder, in fact, was not that Herschel won the Heisman—though he is only the seventh junior to do so—but that, remarkably, he hadn’t done it before. Everything else being equal, the 6’1½”, 222-pound Walker, who has remained surprisingly injury-free through three years as the college game’s most prominent moving target, could have walked away with the trophy three years in a row. His statistics at Georgia make up a profile of almost superhuman consistency. In three seasons he has averaged nearly 160 yards rushing per game, breaking 10 NCAA records, 15 Southeastern Conference records and 29 (yawn) school records. Next year, if he stays healthy, he will obliterate—probably for years to come—the record for most yards gained in a college career. And for Herschel, the past should be prologue. Nobody doubts he will become a pro legend almost as soon as he takes his first handoff for pay.
As for the afterlife—the one that comes after football—Walker, 20, won’t spend it living on memories. A mine supervisor’s son from rural Wrightsville, Ga. (pop. 2,526), he was an A student in high school, has maintained a B average while majoring in criminology at Georgia, and hopes eventually to enter law school—the better to become an FBI agent, like several others in his family. “My mother wants me to be a lawyer,” he has admitted, “but I don’t think that would fit me too well.” For the moment, of course, nothing fits better than running over and around anybody who gets in his way. On New Year’s night, in the Sugar Bowl against powerful Penn State, he will try to do it all again, carrying Georgia to its second perfect season—and second national championship—in the three years he has been the school’s Dog of Dogs. Warming up for his reprise as Superman, he pulled a woman from a smoking car near the campus last week, then quietly jogged away. Whatever he does, it seems Herschel never gives less than his best. “I am willing to work, and I know life’s not easy,” he says. “I can’t say all this commotion has been fun. But it’s challenging, and I have brought it all on myself. I chose to try to succeed at a high level in life, and I will do it.”