Thursday, September 8, 2011

My God, a freshman!

A perfect phrase for the perfect play. Also...the perfect call, for the perfect player.

Like many of you I'm sure, just finished watching Storied "Herschel Walker". If you didn't get a chance, I won't spoil anything for you. I would simply urge you to see it the first chance you get.

Herschel was always a freshman. The term itself implies little perceived value, a person that with the right cultivation may grow into something the world can use. Herschel was bullied by peers growing up as much as he battered himself inside. He later chiseled himself into a premier athlete, a scholar and model young man. But for every hurdle Herschel cleared...even as the world began to marvel, with jaws dropped and voices raised...he couldn't stop to allow himself to bask in his own greatness.

Regardless of your feelings on dissociative identity disorder, and regardless of how true of a Dawg fan you believe you are, you have to recognize Herschel's struggles and his inner demons to truly understand who he is. Actually, scratch that. I don't know that anyone will ever truly understand who he is, but we can appreciate the road he has traveled a little better by witnessing his reading his listening to him speak.

I was 11 years old when Herschel pulled into town. As my wife and I watched the documentary we basked in each replay, every piped in Munson call and each failed tackle. My God, a freshman! It began to dawn on me just how fortunate we are to have lived as Dawg fans during his time on Earth. Certainly, our kids will not see another player his equal. Perhaps their kids.


My oldest once asked me, "What's so special about Herschel Walker?" It may be a question you've scornfully received from a rival fan. But my girl's tone was one of innocence, wanting to understand the pictures on our walls and the feeling in my voice when I spoke of him. I remember stopping what I was doing, and just standing there. I didn't know how to answer that.

Of course, it would be easy to spout off statistics and memories of plays where he tangled with mere mortals. I could try to impress upon her the fact that he earned two Heismans he never received and once ran against the nation's toughest defense with a separated shoulder for 150 yards...2 touchdowns...a MVP honor...and a national championship. 

But that doesn't truly answer her question. She continued to wait on my response and it eventually dawned on me that it was easier to start with what he is not.


My God, a freshman! A trait most of us share is one that has always eluded Herschel Walker. As a kid he was an outcast, to peers and grownups alike. By the time he surpassed everyone athletically and academically he had lapped everyone who was "normal". You see, even a normal football player takes the winter off from competition. A normal collegiate running back in 1982 stayed for his senior year of eligibility, even despite the fact that he had proven everything there was to prove by the time Bill Bates managed to get back on his feet in Knoxville. A normal retired NFL player eventually succumbs to a sedentary lifestyle.

Herschel Walker is not a normal person. I am thankful for that as a Dawg fan. But I'm in awe of it as a human being.


Dawgmjs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dawgmjs said...

The only time I ever saw Herschel play in person was 1982. I was 10 years old and we were living at Fort Rucker, Al. My mom and dad and I drove up to Auburn and I remember my dad buying 3 tickets from a scalper for $150 which was more money than I had ever seen before. We had endzone seats and Herschel scored on a long third down run into the endzone we were sitting in to put the Dawgs in the lead 10-7. Dawgs won and clinched the SEC title that day. I think I loved my parents more that day than any other day before because they took me to see Herschel. One of my best days ever.

Hunkering Hank said...

Dawgmjs - I was there. I was seven. We lived in Montgomery. I had no idea what the hell was going on, but it was awesome. I yelled "War Turkey" at the Aubies all day long. I remember arguing with them and laughing with them. I remember the car ride back and the massive number of people at the game. I remember sitting high on the sideline upper deck. I remember almost nothing of the game except that we won! Thank you Herschel.


Anonymous said...

While sitting through the sermon at church two weeks ago, my son asked, out of the blue, "Is Herschel Walker dead?" My response was one quick word - "hardly".

Beak said...

Long time reader, First time commenter. Herschel got robbed as a frosh, but Marcus Allen had a better year than Herschel's soph

Bernie said...

Thanks for the comments. I tend to follow Dawg players that go on to the NFL. But after a few years I lose track for the most part.

Herschel's different. I find him as intriguing today as I did 30 years ago.

@Beak I guess it's always a matter of opinion in how that trophy should be awarded. In many ways I think Herschel's sophomore year was his most impressive. By then he was basically running against 11 guys.