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VOL. 127 | NO. 79 | Monday, April 23, 2012

A Well-Rounded Life

Herschel Walker shares stories of his success on and off the gridiron

By Andy Meek

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To describe Herschel Walker’s life as remarkable somehow seems like too weak of a superlative.

Former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker was in Memphis at last week’s Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club.

(Photo Courtesy of Creation Studios)

Here’s an example found in his 2008 autobiography “Breaking Free.” Walker describes his normal routine unfolding as he walked down the stairs of his suburban Dallas home and headed to his exercise area.

“I got down on the floor and began my usual routine,” he wrote. “2,500 sit-ups and 1,500 push-ups. I’d been following the same pattern for more than twenty-eight years, 365 days a year come rain or shine, feast or famine, on the road or at home.”

The now middle-aged Walker says he’s in the best health he’s ever been in – despite claiming to eat only one meal a day and sleep a few hours each night.

The Heisman Trophy-winning running back at the University of Georgia – who had a stellar career in the now-defunct United States Football League and NFL – brought more of his incredible story to Memphis a few days ago.

Walker played for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants before retiring from the NFL in 1997. He has spent the years since then pursuing business interests and other passions. He shared with local business and civic leaders what he believes a well-rounded life consists of and some principles that are just as applicable to the corner office as the gridiron.

And he posed for pictures. Lots of pictures.

Prior to a reception Thursday, April 19, promoted jointly by Conway Services & American Residential Services, the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club and The Salvation Army, a beaming Walker was surrounded for 20 to 30 minutes and accommodated just about everyone who approached him with a camera, cell phone and outstretched hand that wanted a greeting.

In brief remarks Thursday night, he recalled a bit of wisdom he got from one of the most famous and beloved coaches he’s played for.

“Sometimes, we forget this world ain’t all about us,” Walker said. “We keep God in the back trunk, like a spare tire. Coach (Tom) Landry used to say all the time, ‘I can take a good man and make him a great football player, but I can’t take a good football player and make him a great man.’”

Walker has pursued greatness in sports contests of all kinds. When he retired from the NFL, he was one of the top running backs with 8,225 yards and 61 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 512 passes for 4,859 yards and 21 scores.

His three-year USFL career saw him rush for another 5,562 yards for the New Jersey Generals, which at the time was owned by Donald Trump.

For the crowd at Thursday’s reception, he was in good humor and shared memories seemingly as they came to him. Recalling his years playing with the Philadelphia Eagles, Walker got some chuckles when he told the crowd, referring to unruly fans, “They love to fight in Philly!

“I think that’s the only place I’ve ever played that had a courtroom at the bottom of a stadium.”

Walker’s business interests include a food service enterprise. He also was a contestant on the second season of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Walker told the crowd he used to babysit Trump’s children Don and Ivanka. When Trump called to ask if he’d like to be on the show, Walker initially told him, “Let me think about it.”

“But he doesn’t understand, ‘I’ll think about it,’” Walker told the crowd.

Before long, print ads were circulating depicting Walker as a contestant. So he asked to see some tapes of the show – “and when I did I thought I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.”

Walker said when he saw the other contestants involved, though, he told himself, “there’s no way I’m getting fired in the first round!”

To a young man afterward who asked him for a bit of life advice, Walker said, “Believe in yourself and be willing to work hard.”

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