Herschel Walker accomplished a lot in his football career, but there’s one more thing he wants: A bust in Canton.
Walker told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he believes he had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, and the Hall of Fame selection committee doesn’t give him enough credit for what he accomplished in the United States Football League, before he began his NFL career.
“Without a doubt in my mind, I should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Walker said. “You look at my stats without my USFL stats, and I don’t know how you can argue with that. Look at my combined yards. I’m not one to make excuses, so I’ll play by their rules and not even count the USFL stats.”
Walker’s USFL stats really were amazing. In 1985 he carried 438 times for 2,411 yards and 21 touchdowns, still the most rushing yards anyone has ever had in any season of any professional football league. (Granted, the USFL was playing 18-game seasons.) Overall Walker totaled 5,562 rushing yards and 1,484 receiving yards in his three seasons in the USFL.
And Walker is correct that if you include his USFL stats, there would be no doubt that he belongs in the Hall of Fame: Walker (who had a better NFL career than a lot of people remember) is ninth in NFL history in all-purpose yards, with 18,168, but if you add in the numbers he put up in the USFL, he’d surpass Jerry Rice for first place all-time.
Some may scoff at the idea that Walker’s USFL stats should be considered, but it is called the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the NFL Hall of Fame, and when Walker was playing in the USFL, it’s not like he was running up big numbers in a league full of scrubs: Among the players who were in the USFL with Walker were future Hall of Famers Reggie White, Gary Zimmerman, Steve Young and Jim Kelly. Despite the presence of those great players in the league, Walker was generally recognized as the best player in the USFL.
Unfortunately, Walker’s NFL career is remembered mostly for the fact that he helped build the 1990s Cowboys by getting them a bounty of draft picks in a trade with the Vikings. But Walker believes he would have been one of the top rushers in the NFL regularly if he had played for a team that had given him the ball consistently.
“I didn’t get the opportunities to run the ball,” Walker said. “People said, ‘Herschel can’t run out of a split backfield, Herschel can’t do this.’ But you’ve got to give opportunities to athletes.”
Walker will almost certainly never get the opportunity to see his bust in Canton. But it’s hard to blame the guy for thinking his career is worthy of more respect than it has received.