DUBLIN, Ga. — It may sound contrived to think that pairing the following words together -- inspiration, technology, talent showcase, Herschel Walker and marine base -- could translate into the next step in the evolution of a show like “America’s Got Talent.”
Thanks to a recent visit to Camp Lejeune by the Heisman Trophy winner, and his latest ecommerce venture, however, Walker is unveiling the model for this new talent show at Theatre Dublin Jan. 18.
And you’re invited... to participate that is.
Herschel Walker’s Raw Talent was the athlete/entrepreneur’s brain child after viewing YouTube submissions in between visits with soldiers at the North Carolina Marine base.
And, beginning at 2 p.m., contestants will have two and half minutes to “audition” in front of a panel of judges for a shot at a $1,000 grand prize, $500 second prize or $250 third place prize. Those three winners, along with the next 12 videos selected will become part of the Raw Talent library.
“I was just looking at the internet and YouTube videos,” Walker said.
“Saw a lot of these people in these small towns like Dublin and Wrightsville and they had a lot of hits. I’m from a small town, and been able to get out and show my talent but a lot of other folks have never been able to be seen or heard.
“They can’t go on ‘American Idol’ or ‘America’s Got Talent.’ My thinking was, maybe get these small town people with talent and bring them together into a venue where I can help monetize these videos. And maybe help them make a little bit of money on it.”
While ecommerce is a broad term encompassing all online transactions, Walker, in particular, was looking at a way to connect viewers with products through mediums like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like.
It’s no secret that Walker has made a near comparable name for himself in the business world.
As the owner of the nation’s largest minority-owned chicken supplier (under Renaissance Man Food Services), a successful restaurateur (Herschel’s Famous 34 Pub & Grill on Clayton Street in Athens) and continued reality-based TV star of UFC and most recently “Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off,” Walker has continued to remain a viable commodity and astute investor.
Which brings us back to Camp LeJeune.
Walker’s travels to places like Lejeune and Afghanistan have all been tied to his efforts to aid people with mental health issues. As a fervent supporter of Patriot Support (which is also his charity of choice for his recent reality-based stint on Food Network), Walker has made offering soldiers outlet and treatment options a priority.
“There’s no shame to ask for help,” said Walker, who announced his own mental health battles in his 2008 memoir “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The former UGA, USFL and NFL star said he is at a great place in his life which is how he has been able to turn his attention to things like raising his 14-year-old son, managing his businesses and taking part in reality shows like “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off.”
“I’m very comfortable,” Walker said. “I’ve got a 14-year-old boy I love to death. I’m comfortable and I want to give back more. I feel like I’ve been so, so blessed. I deserve to give back more.”
Walker, whose 34 Productions is attached to ecommerce vehicle Cinsay, feels confident connecting rural talent to his viewer interactive, video-based platform will translate into the “next big thing” for residents in towns like Dublin and Wrightsville.
“What we’re doing is asking folks to come (to Theatre Dublin) and show off their talents,” Walker said. “We’ll have a panel of judges.
And we’ll select winners. Their videos will get posted with our ecommerce. Some of these videos you’ll find have like six or 10 million hits. I’m not expecting us to sell merchandise to all of them, but imagine if just one million took advantage of our ecommerce? That could be some real money to put in some folks’ hands.”
“...Out of the 15 people we select, from the proceeds we’ll generate we’ll also give some to counties like Johnson and Laurens.”
Both counties are near and dear to Walker’s heart. Growing up in the small community of Idyllwild on the Johnson-Laurens line, Walker still frequents home for visits with family or, as was the case this past July, to serve as Grand Marshal in Wrightsville’s annual Fourth of July parade.
“I had a couple of cars in the parade and they made me Grand Marshal,” Walker said. “It was a little embarrassing for because there are people right there who have done so much more than me.”
And that humble homeward bound leanings also shine through when Walker is broached about topics like his Georgia Bulldogs and their future success.
“I have a lot of confidence in coach (Mark) Richt,” Walker said. “I’d love to keep kids from the state of Georgia in the state of Georgia. It’s hard to see we didn’t do a great recruiting plug. When you live here, it’s exciting for people to come see you play. You may play a little harder. I’m not there at the school or privileged to know what they do. We’re losing a lot of kids from outside the state of Georgia. A dog bites better at his home.”
And Walker hopes plenty of folks will snap at the chance to display their talents at the upcoming showcase.
“(Laurens and Johnson folks) are all my people,” Walker said. “One reason I want to get back and do my very first (Raw Talent) in that area is because those are the people who have helped me. I want to be able to put some money back into the school system of the police department. And eventually, I want to make it something bigger.”
Admission to event is $5 (ages four and up) with exception for individuals who audition.